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Kingsport, Maine, 1893
"Stay on the road."
Molly nodded obediently as she took the basket from her mother.
"Goodness only knows what waits in those woods. You could get lost very easily."
Molly smiled. Her mother worked so hard and worried so much. The shortcut Molly usually took to Grandma's house saved time, and there was really no reason to worry her mother unnecessarily.
Believing that Molly was an obedient daughter, Mary Kincaid smiled as she straightened the hood of Molly's red velvet cape. "I'm sorry to ask you to do this day after day, but your grandmother is stubborn. If only she would stay with us until she's completely well...."
"I don't mind," Molly said. Then she kissed her mother on the cheek. "The walk is good for me, and the weather's been quite pleasant, lately."
She couldn't tell her mother that she loved walking alone through the woods, watching the changes from spring to summer. It was the one part of the day she wasn't rushing from one place to another delivering the bread her mother baked, or hurrying to finish the mending they took in, or washing someone else's clothes.
They'd managed fine since her father's death three years earlier. The Kincaid women worked hard.
The shortcut through the woods was Molly's gift to herself: A peaceful interlude in a hectic day, a bit of beauty to enjoy.
She followed the road until it turned and she could no longer be seen from the house, and a short distance down the way passed the narrow and rarely used road that led south to Vanora Point. Then she ducked into the sheltering shade of the trees, venturing away from the road and going deeper into the woods.
There was a path of sorts, a narrow meandering trail that would take Molly to her grandmother's house. The light that fell here shot through the white pines in widely spaced bands that touched the forest floor, fingers of light tinged with blue as they reached for the ground.
Molly slowed her pace as she stepped deeper into the forest. She hated to lie to her mother, but it seemed such an innocent lie. The time saved was spent with her grandmother, a woman who was as stubborn and willful and loving as her only son, Molly's father, had been.
The red velvet cape Molly wore had been a gift from Grandma Kincaid. It was the only extravagance evident in her wardrobe. Her clothing was serviceable, plain, and sturdy, and consisted entirely of neutral shades of brown and gray and the occasional white blouse. Her mother insisted that with the bright red Kincaid hair curling down her back, Molly needed no more color. Grandma disagreed, and so she'd spent a portion of her savings on the red velvet. Molly so loved the bright cape that she wore it year round.
Molly's mother and her grandmother disagreed often. That was the reason the elder Mrs. Kincaid refused to move to town, Molly suspected. Not because she so loved the house she'd shared with her late husband, Molly's grandfather, who had been gone for more than ten years, not because she wanted to express her independence. She just didn't want to live with her daughter-in-law. Perhaps she even wanted to hurt Mary Kincaid a little, or to make her life more difficult than it already was.
Molly kept her eyes on the path before her as she entered a heavily wooded and dark region of the forest. This was like another world, far apart from her everyday life in Kingsport. Molly had always been convinced that there was magic in the forest of some sort. Some days she was certain it was good magic, other days she felt an ominous chill. However, she was not afraid of unknown magic or of getting lost — not as long as she stayed on her narrow footpath.
"What's in the basket?"
Molly spun around at the intrusion of the distinct, low voice.
"Who's there?" She was surrounded by tall, thick trees, and she could see nothing else. Her heart beat fast as she searched for a man to go with the voice. "Who's there?" she repeated.
She heard the interloper a moment before she saw him. His footsteps were loud in the silent forest as he came near and stepped between two tall white pines. He was dressed in simple hunting gear — a checked shirt and heavy trousers, a thick waistcoat and stout boots — and there was a rifle cradled easily in his arms. He was dark haired and tall, but what struck Molly most strongly was the wicked grin on his face.
"What's in the basket?" As he spoke he stopped and leaned against one of the sturdy pines.
Molly looked down at the basket she clasped with both hands. Running wasn't an option she considered for long. The man she faced was long limbed and strong, wide in the shoulders and a full head taller than she was, and wasn't hampered as she was by a heavy skirt and red cape. "Bread and wine, some cheese and fish. That's all."
She lifted her eyes to the man again, undaunted even though she knew everyone in Kingsport and this man was a complete stranger to her.
"Really?" His interest seemed casual, and there was no threat in his stance. "All I have is some hard bread and a bit of pork."
Molly took a single step forward, in order to get a better look at the shaded face of the stranger who, oddly enough, intrigued her. Her curiosity made her bold. "I would happily share, but this is for my grandmother, and she's been ill."
He had a face that looked as if it had been sculpted with a knife, rather than molded with loving hands. There was a harshness in the sharp features that was not relieved by his humorless smile, and was only intensified by the keen gleam in his green eyes. Eyes a dark green that seemed to belong here in the forest.
"Too bad," he growled.
"My name is Molly Kincaid," she offered, hoping he would introduce himself if she did so first. He had the look of a traveler, a wanderer, with his knapsack and rifle, and she sensed he was a man more animal than human in spite of his sturdy clothing and wellcared-for weapon.
"What are you doing in the woods, Red?" he asked. "Are you lost? I'll be happy to help you find your way out, for a price."
She didn't ask what price he would demand, but instead stepped closer. Just one more single step. "I'm not lost. There's a narrow path from the road to my grandmother's house. The road is shaped like an L, and the path is fairly straight, and so it's shorter. As long as I stay on the path, I won't get lost."
"I see," he breathed in a low voice. He was no wanderer, Molly decided. For one thing, his black hair had recently been neatly trimmed. It didn't hang over his collar, but was as sharp and precise as the lines of his harsh face.
Molly's curiosity won out over her good manners. "I don't believe we've ever met before, and I know everyone from Kingsport."
He grinned again, showing Molly straight, white teeth that for some reason she couldn't explain made her shudder. "I have a house south of the village."
"There's nothing south of Kingsport but Vanora Point and the Trevelyan house," Molly challenged.
The grin didn't fade. "That's right."
Suddenly Molly knew who the stranger was. Oh, the stories she'd heard, the whispered tales....
"You're Wolf Trevelyan," she whispered.
"That's right." The wicked smile died slowly, and the green eyes darkened. Hardened, perhaps.
Molly knew she should run, should take her chances even though Wolf Trevelyan was stronger and undoubtedly faster, and if he decided to give chase he would surely catch her. He didn't have the look of a man who would chase her through the woods — in spite of the stories she'd heard, in spite of the fact that the way he looked at her chilled her to the bone.
But goodness, if her mother knew ... her mother could never know. "How do you do, Mr. Trevelyan," Molly said with a brief curtsey.
Her response surprised him, evidently. There was a flash of puzzlement on his face, but it came and went quickly. "Quite well, Red," he answered dryly. "And you?"
The grin came back, a little less dark, a little less menacing. "I left New York City to escape the niceties of society, and here we are having a proper conversation in the middle of the forest. You surprise me, Red. Haven't you heard about me? Didn't your mother warn you?"
How embarrassing. She had tried to pretend that she didn't know about his reputation, but she wouldn't actually lie about it. "Well, yes, I have heard some rather shocking stories, and my mother did warn me about you."
"Then why are you still here?"
It was a very good question. One she should be asking herself. "I don't know. Perhaps I don't believe everything I hear, Mr. Trevelyan."
"Call me Wolf."
Molly smiled. The name suited him, in an odd way. He looked like a predator, and she had no doubt but that he could be quite dangerous. But not to her. That easy confidence was instinctive, inexplicable.
"I must be going, Wolf." Molly backed away, two short steps. "My grandmother will be waiting."
"For her bread and wine and fish," he said in a low voice.
"And cheese," Molly added.
He watched her so strangely, with a momentary light in his forest green eyes.
"Stay on the path," he warned.
He turned from her, and Molly spun around to continue on her way. The chance meeting with Wolf Trevelyan left her feeling oddly exhilarated.
She spun around when he called her. Already he was disappearing into the shadows of the tall trees that seemed to swallow him up.
"Do you come this way every day?" he called.
"Yes," she answered, raising her voice so he would be sure to hear. "Will I see you here again?"
There was a pause before he answered, and all Molly could hear was the sound of Wolf Trevelyan moving away from her rapidly. "Probably not." His answer echoed, hollow and faint, and Molly's smile disappeared.
Grandma Kincaid's cottage faced the road that led to Kingsport and backed up to the dense woods. The path Molly followed was one her grandmother had forged herself years earlier, as impatient with the wasted time on the road as Molly was.
Today, Molly practically ran as she neared the cottage. She had no time to waste conversing with men in the forest, no matter how interesting they might be. Of course, she had no time for a social life at all ... between her mother and her grandmother. They needed her, and they left no time for courting. That was why Molly found herself unmarried as she approached the age of twenty-four.
While she'd never been fiercely sought after like the truly beautiful girls in town, there had been several Kingsport bachelors to express an interest in her, usually older men looking for a wife to care for their homes and even their children. The widower Pyle had been quite persistent for several months, and Mr. Dodson had expressed an interest at one time, even though he was old enough to be her father.
Molly wasn't attracted in even the mildest way to any of the men who expressed an interest in her. She'd used her mother's need as an excuse to avoid these men for the past three years. Before that, it had been her father's illness.
She wanted to be married, one day, but not to just anyone. Certainly not to a man who was only looking for a housekeeper and a cook.
"Sorry I'm late," she called as she threw open the back door.
Grandma was sitting in her favorite chair, a book in her lap and a warm shawl around her thin shoulders. "You're not late, Molly." She closed her book and lifted her inquisitive eyes. "Good heavens, you're as red as that cape. Are you all right? Has something happened?"
It would be so easy to assure her grandmother that this day was like any other, that nothing out of the ordinary had happened, but Grandma Kincaid saw everything, and Molly couldn't lie to her beloved grandmother. "Well, I did meet someone in the woods today. A man. He was hunting, I think."
"He had a rifle and, I think, an India rubber knapsack that might have held ammunition, and he had bread and pork."
"How do you know he had bread and pork?"
"He told me so."
Grandma Kincaid was not as cautious as Molly's mother, but she looked awfully concerned. "You should take the road home, Molly. All my years on that path, and I never met a single soul, let alone a stranger."
Molly placed the basket on Grandma's table and began to lay out the food she had brought. "Well, he's not exactly a stranger."
The moment of silence was so heavy and uncomfortable it made Molly itch.
"Molly?" Her grandmother asked as she stood slowly, gripping her polished cane and leaning forward. "Who was this man?"
Molly faced her grandmother with an innocent smile, hands clasped before her demurely, eyes wide. "Wolf Trevelyan," she said softly.
"Saints preserve us," Grandma whispered, rolling her eyes heavenward and placing a hand over her heart. "Did he hurt you? Did he touch you?"
"No," Molly said indignantly. "He was quite polite. Very much the gentleman."
"Have you not heard the stories? I know your mother tries to keep unpleasantness from you, but —"
"I've heard," Molly assured her grandmother as the old woman reached the table and placed a trembling hand on Molly's arm. "But they're just stories, Grandma. Tales, gossip, scandalous babble."
"They're true." Grandma maintained a tight grip on Molly's arm as she took her seat at the table. "I knew Jeanne, and her mother, and her grandmother. It's been seven years since that terrible night. You were young when it happened, I realize, and your father didn't want you exposed to such unpleasantness. Jeanne's family left Kingsport, not long after she died, so it would be easy to forget what happened. Poor Jeanne. We can't allow the truth to die with her."
"No one knows the truth," Molly said defensively.
"Why does a woman kill herself on her wedding night?" Grandma whispered. "When Jeanne went over that cliff, she was still wearing her nightdress, as if she ran straight from her bedchamber and over the cliff. There are some that say Wolf Trevelyan didn't drive his bride to her death, but that he threw her off the cliff himself. We'll never know exactly how Jeanne died, but we do know Wolf Trevelyan is to blame."
Molly knew better than to argue with her grandmother. "He must have been very young. I always expected that he would be older, but he can't be much more than thirty."
"He was twenty-four when it happened, five years older than Jeanne. Yes, that's young, but that doesn't make him less evil."
Molly wanted to assure her grandmother that Wolf was not evil. She would have known, would have sensed it, but she'd felt no danger from the man who had confronted her so boldly in the forest. "Eat," Molly said. "We shouldn't have such conversations if they're going to upset you."
"I'm not upset."
Molly knew that wasn't true. Her grandmother's voice gave her away, with its weak tremble.
"Molly, dear?" A thin hand reached out, and bony fingers wrapped around Molly's wrist. "You mustn't take the path through the woods again. Your mother was right, and I was wrong to encourage you to disobey her on this matter. If anything happened to you, goodness, I would never forgive myself." Grandma turned piercing eyes upward. "You must promise me."
Molly hesitated. She had spent only a few minutes in the company of Wolf Trevelyan, but it was undoubtedly the most exciting few minutes of her life. Still, she couldn't make a promise to her grandmother and then immediately and deliberately break it.
"I promise you," she said carefully, "that I will not put myself in danger. Goodness," she added quickly. "What would you do without me? You'd be forced to move to town and live with mother, and you'd both be miserable, and the neighbors would complain about all the noise — the yelling and the sounds of pots and pans flying about the house."
Her grandmother eyed her suspiciously. "You promise?"
"I promise," Molly said solemnly. She wouldn't be putting herself in danger simply by walking through the woods. Wolf had told her he probably wouldn't see her again, and even if he did ... even if he did ... he wouldn't hurt her. She knew that as surely as she knew that her own grandmother would never do her any harm.
"Now eat up," she encouraged. Grandma Kincaid was getting much too thin. "I baked this bread myself, just last night. It's not as good as Mother's, of course, but I think it will do."
Grandma tasted the bread carefully, and Molly knew that no matter how good or bad it was, the response would be positive.
Excerpted from Big Bad Wolf by Linda Jones. Copyright © 1997 Linda Winstead Jones. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 28, 2010
Posted March 8, 2010
This book was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. At first I believed the book was going to have an actual wolf or werewolf in it somewhere, but that's just the name of one of the characters. There are no wolves or preternatural creatures in this book. The story is about a young woman who takes food to her sick grandmother everyday wearing a hooded red cape (not really original there) but the young woman ends up bumping into the town's reclusive millionaire who has a reputation for killing his wife. Molly, the protagonist, doesn't believe the stories about Wolf and is not afraid of him when he happens upon her in the woods on the way to her grandmother's house. Wolf, being used to people shunning him or running scared, is intrigued by the fact that Molly is not afraid. The story develops from there in a way that was totally unexpected for me. I found that I read this book in about a day. Was it the best book I've ever read? No. Did it keep me interested and wondering what was going to happen with the characters? Yes. This is the kind of book I would recommend you read while your waiting on the next book of your favorite author to come out. It fills the void of not knowing what else to read and you get a pretty interesting story to boot.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2002
This book was a very good overall Faerie tale romance. The chemistry between these two is remarkable. Of course you have the typically jealous factor, but there was never really any 'villian' after Molly. So the conclusion was in a way not what it could have been, but it was still very good!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 16, 2011
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Posted February 25, 2010
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