Into the Forest – Part 2

Here is the second part of the story… I hope you enjoy it.  I had fun writing it.

**

They continued on through the landscape until the fields around the town gave way to scrub-land, which gave way to forest.  It was when they entered the forest that Alexander first felt the tremor of fear.  He wasn’t the sort to fear the trees, normally.  At first, he didn’t say anything.  He tried to shake the feelings of unease away.  He told himself it was foolish, that he was being unreasonable.  Still, the fear remained.

“I can’t shake the feeling that we’re being watched,” Sam said, breaking the silence.  He met Alexander’s gaze and said, “You feel it too?”

Nodding, he said, “I thought it was my imagination.”  He nearly jumped out of his skin when someone else spoke up from just to their left.

“What brings two such fine men out on this early morning?”  Sam reigned in at the words, his gaze going towards the sound.

Alexander peered around Sam and saw a woman seated on a stone near the side of the road just ahead of them.  She looked about the same age as Sam.  Her hair was a dark mass of curls and she wore a long black gown with a black cloak.  He frowned.  “We’re bringing supplies to Widow Reynolds,” he said, without really knowing why he’d answered her query.  Then, he shook his head.  “What are you doing out here… all alone?”

She smiled and moved to her feet.  The way she moved reminded Alexander of a large animal stalking prey.  “I was gathering berries,” she said, holding up a basket.  “I had in mind to make tarts.  Do you like tarts?”

Alexander’s cheeks warmed at the double meaning in her words.  “Sometimes,” he said, nodding.  He touched Sam on the sleeve.  “We… really must be going, I’m afraid.  Widow Reynolds is expecting us.”

“Of course,” she said, smiling.  “If you come back this way, perhaps you will stop by at my cabin.  I would love to share a meal with you.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Sam said, tipping his hat.  Then, he shook the reigns of the horses and they were moving forward once again.  Without looking back, he said, “Peculiar lady, eh?”

“Most definitely,” Alexander said, nodding.  He shivered and then shifted in his seat so that he was a bit closer to Sam.  Almost instinctively, he hugged Mischief a bit closer as well.

 

Almost as soon as they arrived at Widow Reynolds’ ranch, the elderly lady had them working.  Sam was busy repairing her fence, while Alexander headed off to get some more firewood.  He wandered through the trees behind the ranch house, gathering twigs for kindling and large branches for building up the fire.  As he found pieces, he added them to a wagon.

He came over a hill and froze when he saw the very same woman they’d met on the road.  “Hello, ma’am,” he said, resting the ax on his shoulder.

She smiled and drifted closer to him.  “My goodness,” she said, “fancy meeting you again, Mr.…” she arched her eyebrows.  “I don’t believe that I caught your name.”

“Nor I yours, ma’am,” Alexander said, shrugging.  He tipped his hat and said, “Alexander Montgomery.”

“Marie LeBou,” she said.  Her gaze locked on his then.

Alexander blinked when he noticed how they seemed to draw him in.  Her eyes were mesmerizing.  He gave an uneasy chuckle and said, “I should probably be heading back.  He turned to go and then blinked when she was suddenly ahead of him.  “How… very quickly you move, Ms. LeBou,” he breathed.

“How else should I stop you from rushing off,” she asked, fluttering her eyes at him.  She smiled then, showing a flash of white teeth.

They weren’t merely bright… they were sharp.  Alexander took a step back.  “My goodness, but… your teeth are… rather sharp, Ms. LeBou.”

She chuckled and nodded.  “The better to bite through flesh, my dear,” she said.  Then, she leaped at him.

Alexander gave a startled cry and recoiled.  He stumbled back over the wagon, falling to the ground.  As a result, LeBou leaped over him.  He regained his feet and ran back towards the house.  He could hear her crashing through the brush behind him.

He was bashing his thighs against stumps and stones.  He stumbled and fell, landing sprawled on the ground.  “Sam,” he cried, his voice echoing through the trees.  He braced himself, ready for her to catch him.  Then, a gunshot echoed through the trees.

Alexander shivered and glanced back.  LeBou was gone.  He looked down towards the house and released a shaky breath.  The old widow they’d been sent to help was glaring up the slope, an old carbine resting in the crook of her arm.  “Ms. Reynolds,” he said, tipping his hat.

“All right, son?” she asked.  When he nodded, she gave him a weak smile.  “Best hurry up and get down to the house, Mr. Montgomery.  That won’t chase her off for long.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Alexander said.  He struggled to his feet and limped the rest of the way to her side.  He gave her a weak smile.  “How did you… Did you hear me call for Sam?”

She shook her head.  “Sam told me about the peculiar lady you met in the forest and I knew her type,” she said.  She smiled at Alexander.  “You ought to know by now not to talk to strangers, Alexander.”

Alexander nodded.  “Especially those that are stranger than most,” he agreed.

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