In Time: Lost
This is another piece from my serial WIP called In Time. This immediately follows after The Proposal. I left Viola Grace running away from Cage in the woods.
Viola Grace crashed through the woods. She was lost, dusk was approaching, and the fact that she was crying did nothing to help her see. The breeze carried the distinct sound of her name to her ears. At first, she thought it was Cage, but a sense of dread filled her as she realized it wasn’t. Despite the alarm rising in her belly, her fear of being lost drove her toward the sound. It led her deeper into the woods, inciting her fears, until finally she found a path leading between the trees and saw smoke plumes rising in the distance.
The building rose gray and dark through the trees as she approached it. The small paned windows facing Viola Grace were dark, but the brick was cool against her hand when she touched it. She leaned into it, pressing her hot cheek against the wall and closing her eyes. Her arms throbbed where thorns had torn at her flesh. Her legs ached from running. Her feet were numb from stumbling over twigs and branches. Her clothing was torn beyond repair. She could feel the weight of her half-fallen hair on her neck and the tickle of leaves crowding her loosened curls. As the last ray of sun slipped from the sky, fear overwhelmed her and a sob escaped her throat.
A twig snapped on the other side of the building. Goosebumps rose from her feet to her head and an involuntary shiver made her twitch as a voice, neither high nor low, called her name.
“Viola!” The source of the voice was breaking the distance between them with quick strides. The voice itself was neither high nor low, lending no clue about the gender of its owner. Her breath caught in her chest as a shadow fell on the ground, quickly fading as a swirl of skirts rounded the corner. A woman stood where the shadow had been, a crooked smile warming up her hawkish face.
“There you are!” Her arms opened in embrace. “How frightened you must be! Please, come inside where it’s warm. We’ve been waiting for you.”
A sense of calm Viola Grace didn’t understand erased the fear she felt in her core. Her legs carried her unprompted into the woman’s embrace. The ball of dread in her belly tightened despite the slow warmth creeping through her veins. Her legs betrayed her as she stepped in rhythm with the woman8 toward the soft glow of yellow light seeping from the open door just beyond them.
The room she entered was small and well furnished with a small couch, two end tables, an ornate rug, and potted plants scattered about the room. A fire in the hearth gave the room a final touch of warmth, lending a cozy atmosphere to an otherwise drab place. A small dark-skinned woman holding a thick blanket appeared out of a shadow as the woman led Viola Grace to the couch and covered her.
“Bring us tea, Orvella, quickly.” The woman said. Orvella left the room through the same shadow she appeared in, causing the dread in Viola’s gut to twist. One of the woman’s cold hands pressed against her forehead, the other behind her neck. “You are feverish, you poor dear. It’s a good thing you found us when you did.”
“Who are…” Viola Grace began.
“Shush. All your questions will be answered in good time.”
Orvella appeared with a silver platter bearing a teapot and two small teacups. Viola Grace took the cup offered to her, her eyes noting the fine floral detail and gold edge decorating it. The woman raised her cup in a toast, and Viola Grace drank. The tea was just the right temperature, just the right amount of sweet, and just the right amount of peach flavor under coating it. She felt it weep through her body, warming it from the inside out. Within moments, she was fast asleep.
“Now’s the time, Orvella. Shall we move her to the basement?” the woman said, a wicked smile etched across her face.
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