In the middle of the woods, there is a sudden snap of a branch as a raven takes flight, its wings echoing in the absence of any other sound. I look around to confirm that I am, without a doubt, the only living being present. Each step I take crunches on dead leaves, their brittle dried skeletons breaking and piercing into the flesh of my foot, never enough to break skin but uncomfortable enough to make me wince step gingerly.
When I look down, I notice that I have no shoes and my thin, muslin dress offers very little protection from the onslaught of the wind. I unconsciously wrap my arms around myself but can’t help but feel vulnerable in the middle of what seems like nowhere but walk towards the setting sun. The breeze picks up and I and feeling a press to make it out of these sparse trees, anywhere at this point as I have no idea where my end destination is.
Why am I here and where is here, anyway?
Before I can really think on the question, another gust of wind blows past and I swear I hear a faint crackle in the dead foliage covered ground besides my own. Suddenly, I know my destination and it’s outside of these premise and behind a door that I can lock securely. I hasten my steps racing the sunset yet the dimming light seems to be winning. There seems to be no end to the tree line and I hurry to find shelter, any shelter away from the outside condition.
Another snap and I think I hear a growl behind me and I know I need to do more than speed walk my way out here! I grab the lower hem of my knee length dress in one hand and start to jog towards the fading sun. There are more sounds behind me and I know for sure it’s not just my own steps that I hear in stereo around me. Now I am high tailing it and running as fast as I can to the end or somewhere I can feel secured and as I turn around, I see a few shadows darting around the large, dead trees.
I swear under my breath and sprint even harder when my foot suddenly catches under something and I am tumbling. My legs and arms have a fresh, heat radiating off of them that quickly turn into sharp pain but I can tell it’s all superficial. I jump back to my feet and continue to run, but with a limp this time trying desperately to ignore the pain and get the hell out of here. After picking up speed and running for a distance, I look back and relief floods me when there is nothing behind me. When I turn back around, I see a figure and by the time I realize there is someone there, I can’t stop and I crash into the person. Hard.
This time the pain in unbearable and its coming from my ankle. As I lay all sprawl and the waning sun leaves only shadows, I see a silhouette of a tall figure stand above me and my vision close in before.
What feels like hours of sleeping and a light headache, I feel a light throb in my foot and when I flex it, a sharp pain shoots up my leg.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, love.” I deep baritone voice with a slight accent purrs at my right.
I open my eyes slowly and find myself in an unfamiliar bed, splashes of firelight from the wood fire burning. The shadows start to play tricks on my adjusting eyes and when I look at the stranger that sat on the chair adjacent from the fireplace, I could swear his shadow was that something non-human. My eyes draw to his shadowy personage and I find that I cannot look away whether in fear or in fascination. When he turns towards me, the shadows melt away to reveal one of the most handsome specimens of male kind before me. His chiseled facial features, long platinum hair and sculpted torso all accent with the flickering firelight make him almost too beautiful a specimen to behold, yet all I can do is drink him up with my eyes.
He seems to be aware of my predicament as well and smirks almost smugly at the situation. I suddenly realize that I’ve not only been staring at him for a long time, unable to look away, but I am googling at him for quite possibly a few minutes pretty awkwardly. I finally find my tongue as I feel my cheeks warm and ask the most obvious question, “What happened?”
Mr. Beautiful-with-his-charming-smirk answers, “You fainted.” I almost groan in frustration at how cliché that sounds, fainting before a gorgeous guy I suddenly run into. Then the next question pops into my head, “Why were you in the middle of nowhere as I am running for my life?”
“Why were you running for your life in the middle of nowhere?” He asks quirking well arched brow in question.
“I honestly don’t know how I got there or here for that matter.”
“Well, I can supply the answer for why you are here.” And he stops with a well knowing smirk yet again.
“Would you like to elaborate…?”
“I should think it’s rather obvious seeing as we were the only one there. I carried you after you fainted and dressed your wounds.”
Wounds? I look down and am surprised to see that my cuts and scrapes on my arms are not only clean, but properly dry and wrapped.
“Thank you.” I simply say as I sit up and look down my right leg and see a rather swollen but equally dressed ankle. I twitch it for good measure and regret my decision instantly as I feel a jolt up my leg and the pain seats itself in the base of my spine when I hear soft tutting sounds from my healer.
“Tsk, tsk, you should know better.” He says as he comes to stand at the foot of the bed.
“I should be yet, I found myself alone in the woods for reason’s I cannot fathom and hallucinated I was being chased and ran for my life but only ended up injuring myself. I’d say that’s a lot of ‘should have known’, but didn’t, right there.” I explain, focusing solely on my bum ankle and trying different rang of motions until it becomes too unbearable.
“I suppose that answers my first question.” I did not notice he sat down until he slowly lifts my foot, surprisingly gentle, and lightly covers my foot and meets my eyes. He was very careful where he placed his hands and fingers and slowly applied a steady and gentle pressure, his eyes never leaving my own. “Does this hurt?”
He applies a little bit more and stops when I wince, his gaze steadfast on my face. I nod for him to continue his ministrations of gentle pressure on my foot until I can’t take it no more to which he promptly stops. After an hour of gauging how much pain I can tolerate and waiting for me to accent to more pressure, he worked on my foot to the point where I can withstand a light massage. In the end, we were both tired but my mobility was better.
“Thank you.” I said as I looked down at my foot, black and blue from the fall but looking a bit less swollen and less sore. I pull my foot closer to me and notice that my skirt has a few blood spots from my cuts and scrapes from earlier. I am not sure how bad or deep they were but they sure hurt when I first got them. My savior comes and sets something on the floor besides my bed. I look to see him kneeling beside the bed with a small tin basin of hot water and he extends his hand towards me. I give him my foot to place into the basin and watch in silence as he reaches for my other foot asking, “May I?” before I extend my other leg and he proceeds to check on the bandage.”
I am so enraptured by his meticulous care of my wounds, gently cleaning and rewrapping the new bandages on my leg. He then lightly does range of motion on my uninjured foot and looks at me with those molten silver eyes that see right through me. I feel myself flush under his gaze, his hands gently working my ankle and massaging my lower calf. Once again, I feel drawn to him as though he is hypnotizing me and I can’t look away as his warm hands work around my injured leg.
Once he finishes with my leg, he stands and bends over to work on my right forearm, giving it the same care as my calves before sits on the other side of me. I offer my left arm and he carefully brushes my long, thick hair away from my shoulder, brushes his warm knuckles against my upper back with the motion to get all my hair onto my right shoulder. I shiver at the slight contact and find my breath coming in quicker, to which I had to remind myself to breathe deeper and slower. He then unravels the long strips of bandage all along from my wrist to my biceps, cleaning off the scrapes and any excess blood and then wrapping it comfortably around my arm.
I watch the whole process with bated breath until he worked up my arm towards my middle bicep where he tucked the hanging strap in. Slowly his gaze met my own and we are so close to one another that I can feel his warm breath brush up against my cheek. I lick my lips unconsciously and watch at his eyes dart down to my mouth, my eyes, following in suit. I close the gap towards him a bit and his hand comes up to brush the stay hair behind my ear, lingering a moment before I lean my cheek towards it. I feel the warmth radiating off of his hand and nuzzle it as he too slowly leans in. My eyes close as I enjoy the sensation of his hand on my cheek hoping to feel the soft brush of his lips as well. When I feel those same lips brush the top of my head, I open my eyes to see him giving me a small smile as he caresses my cheek once again and he slowly gets up. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of disappointment yet I could not help but mentally kick myself for practically throwing myself at a stranger like that. I lay back into the bed and try to quiet my pulse and found my eyelids suddenly grow heavy.
An acute smell of roasted rosemary roused me up slowly from sleep along with clatter in the adjacent room. I rose up from my sleep to look for where the delicious aroma originates and see the table between my bed – well, not my bed – and the kitchen full of steaming entrees of meats, vegetables and fruits, yet the chef not in sight.
I gingerly get up from the bed and walk to the closest chair I could reach. My foot doesn’t hurt as much as I thought it would but still has a bit of a twinge. I look around again to see if my host is anywhere nearby but my hunger gets the best of me and I daintily pick the smallest morsel of meat and pop it in my mouth.
Lamb. My absolute favorite.
I take another piece and then another, until I finally say, “the heck with it!” and grab a lamb chop and bite into it. It is at that moment that I take a bite that see my mystery man walk out of a bathroom with billowing stream trailing behind him. A lone towel adorns his waist and I’m sure I look dumbfounded by his glistening bod accented with taunt muscles in all the right places.
Oh, how I wish I were that towel around his waist…