Authors: Leighann Dobbs
SOMETHING IN RED
Other Works By Leighann Dobbs
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Cozy Mystery Series
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Dying For Danish
Murder, Money, & Marzipan
Regency Romance Fairytales Series
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Something In Red
This is a work of fiction.
None of it is real. All names, places, and events are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to real names, places, or events are purely coincidental, and should not be construed as being real.
SOMETHING IN RED
Copyright © 2013
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner, except as allowable under “fair use,” without the express written permission of the author.
Table Of Contents
“Good evening, Red,” the gentleman offered with a shallow dip of his chin and a quick wink – only
he had forcefully stopped her carriage, arrogantly joined her inside without an invitation, and then comfortably settled himself against the squabs opposite her in the conveyance.
Despite his having called her
, a gross mispronunciation of her true name and more likely a nod to the color of her cape rather than any intended insult, Rhiad felt fairly certain the gentleman who had stolen into her carriage could not possibly know her identity.
She certainly knew nothing of his.
From behind the safety of her mask, Rhiad studied him curiously. He had dark hair. A rather pleasing profile, too, she admitted. He must be possessed of a lean, agile body as well, if his ease in hoisting himself up into the carriage without the aid of steps were anything to go by.
Her head screamed warnings of imminent danger, yet she knew her only escape lay in braving the dark forest beyond the carriage. Alone.
Feeling slightly overwhelmed and greatly under-amused, Rhiad pushed back against the heavily padded seat, immediately grateful for the hood of her thick, red velvet cloak which shielded her face and hid most of her features. Darkness and the red, gold, and black feathered mask she wore took care of the rest.
Given those choices, she quickly decided of all the evils she might face outside, staying put inside the carriage with this bold and intriguing stranger would likely remain her safest recourse.
Her heart thumped against her ribs, but she dare not show him any sign of weakness or fear. “Who are you, sir, and how dare you overtake my carriage?”
She had intended the words to be a disdainful demand, and had uttered it in the most haughty tone she could manage at the moment, yet her voice still trembled, betraying her nervousness.
The fellow had the audacity to chuckle.
“There is to be a ball this evening, my dear, and I simply
attend,” he offered by way of explanation.
Her grandmother's ball?
Rhiad had seen the guest list, more than once, and yet still could not fathom his identity. She continued to peer at him across the way, her gaze taking in his dark attire. Considering he
dressed as befitted a man of stature were he indeed bent upon partaking of the night's festivities, she decided she must grant him the benefit of a doubt.
Black suited him, she thought, her gaze taking in the elegant, tailored cut of his evening clothes. Yet he had the most unusual, striking pair of eyes she had ever seen. An unnatural shade of green, they seemed to glow with a feral inner light.
“You have not yet given me your name,” she reminded him. Were he intent upon doing her harm, she would at least have a name to put to the sorry, carriage encroaching miscreant.
“Proposing so soon, my sweet?”
She gasped at the indelicacy of his response, and he chuckled yet again.
Finally, he relented. “Wolfe.”
Despite the seriousness of the moment, his answer brought an unbidden twitch to her lips.
, Rhiad thought. But rather than dwell upon or call attention to the sudden, growing absurdity of the moment, she merely said, “
How fitting. You certainly do resemble a wild, dangerous animal with your dark, windswept hair and ferocious eyes.”
His brows danced upward and then down once, twice, thrice, and his mischievous grin made those brilliant green eyes of his glow ever more brightly despite the low light of the carriage lamp.
“The better to see you with, my dear,” he teased, though she felt sure the full measure of the taunt had been, for him, unknown.
Rhiad fought to stifle the hysterical fit of giggles bubbling up in her throat, giggles which had both everything and nothing to do with his quip while at the same time, she blinked back tears of complete and utter humiliation.
Oh, how she hated both her parents and one Mr. Charles Perrault at the moment, she thought.
“And what name shall I put to
, my lady?”
There was nothing for it. Though it was highly likely he would not believe her and in fact might well laugh at her now, Rhiad knew she would simply have to give him the truth.
“Hoode,” she answered. “I am Lady Rhiad.”
His brows rose and those bright, intelligent eyes of his revealed the instant he made the connection in his mind – of her lineage if not also the dread fairytale for which she was named.
“Hoode? Not of the Ryding Hoode's, surely?”
She bit her lip, wishing for the hundredth time today her parents hadn't given in to the more humorous bend of their nature when choosing the name of their only child.
“Aye, Lord Wolfe, I certainly am. Lady Rhiad of the Ryding Hoode's, if you please,” she grudgingly admitted. “The countess, Lady Althea, is my grandmother. I am at this moment traveling to her country estate to attend the masquerade ball given there in my honor this evening.”
His lips twitched, and Rhiad thought she might thoroughly enjoy slapping him most soundly if he dared to laugh, though she herself was still having trouble swallowing back the nervous laughter hovering in her throat.
After a long moment during which he peered at her from across the carriage, his expression quite serious though she would swear his eyes still held a teasing glint, he said, “You are traveling alone through this dark forest at night and, like an innocent, you readily admit to me that you are going to your grandmother's house?”
He shook his head. “Dare I correctly assume you have cast me as the big, bad wolf in this tale?”
Rhiad could hold back her laughter no longer. It spilled forth, unchecked, washing away both her uncertainty and fear with its sultry melody.
After a moment, the rolling baritone notes of his own deep chuckles joined hers. “For shame, my dear. Did our good author, Mr. Perrault, teach you nothing?”
His good-natured, humor-laced chastisement was well warranted, yet Rhiad could no longer see any trace of true seriousness in their conversation.
Her satin-encased, gloved fingers swept tears of laughter from her cheeks. “Aye, he did. Which is why I now believe I am safe, for the moment, if we are to follow his tale to the letter, sir. I well remember it being first the grandmother of whom the bad old wolf makes a meal.”
All traces of humor suddenly disappeared from his expression, and his green eyes seemed to glow all the more fiercely in the dimly lit interior of the carriage. “Ah, yes, sweet little Rhiad,” he said, still mispronouncing her name as
, “but you and I both know the true delicacy the wolf first desired.”
Her face burned at his words, he knew, though he could not actually
the color staining her cheeks because of the mask she wore. He
see her eyes widen, however, and a pleased smirk tripped its way onto his lips.
“You mean to compromise me, sir Wolfe.”
Her words were not framed as a question and the utter lack of inquisitiveness in her tone, coupled with her firm certainty of his intent, caused Damien to lift a brow in mild surprise.
He would have expected a scathing set down, a scream, a demand for him to get out of her carriage this very instant, or any other thing a naive, innocent female would do when faced with being stuck in a closed carriage, unchaperoned, with a male such as he. But never would he have expected her to react so calmly to the obvious threat he posed, as though she had nothing to fear.
“Are you truly not afraid, little Red?”
“Should I be?” Her gaze was direct. Piercing, even.
A bark of laughter escaped him. “Aye, you should be.”
“A pity, then, for I cannot seem to drum up even an dram of fear, my lord Wolfe.”
Taken aback, Damien settled back against the squabs, his interest more than piqued, and regarded the lady across from him in quite a different light. Lady Rhiad of the Ryding Hoode's was no fainthearted miss, of that much he was now certain. Perhaps he should re-think his plan of action....
“You don't think yourself safe here with me, do you, Red?”
It was her turn to laugh. “Safe? With
? Heavens no. You are a most fearsome creature, indeed, but even so, I cannot bring myself to fear you, even knowing my safety while in your company is out of the question. It's more that I do not feel threatened, sir, than anything.” She paused in her explanation. Behind the mask, Damien could see her eyes narrow in self-contemplation. “I'm afraid you're not doing your job very well.”
Again, Damien laughed. So the lass wished him to step up his game, did she? Were he a less skilled fellow, her words would likely have forced just such an action from him. A more timid fellow, one less certain of himself than Damien, might well have taken the opportunity to give her exactly what she encouraged, to frighten her, to shake her out of her false sense of well-being.
But not Damien.
game, after all, and he was a master of it. He lounged, unconcerned, against the seat opposite her, his unhurried gaze traversing those bits of her not covered by cloak or mask.
Her eyes, alert for any sudden movement, watched him carefully. Her lips remained parted rather than clamped in a smug smile or flat line while short, rapid breaths puffed, only semi-disguised, between. The pulse at her throat beat in a slightly irregular rhythm, and her chest rose and fell with each quick, quiet breath she drew. Her fingers curled slightly against the folds of her cloak, prepared, he was sure, to clench tight at any moment should the need arise.
“On the contrary, my darling girl. It appears I have done a most excellent job.” A flash of uncertainty in her gaze caused the upward tilt of his lips to rise.
“Oh? You will explain, sir Wolfe.”
He shifted, making himself more comfortable. “It is
Wolfe, actually, my lady. Damien Wolfe to be precise, and I do not believe I shall.”
The carriage rumbled around a sharp bend in the road, dipped, swayed, and Red lost her easy bearing. One hand went upward to clutch at the leather strap placed for exactly this reason while the other pressed against the open seat at her side.
She steadied herself, but not before her cloak fell open to her waist, revealing the daringly low cut black, red, and gold evening gown beneath, and Damien's eyes narrowed.
He straightened abruptly in the seat opposite her, his sudden movement causing her breath to quicken. “On second thought, Red, I believe I
Her stare pinned him for a moment before sliding away to the carriage window where a scant two inches of space between the drawn curtains allowed her to view the passing scenery outside.