Forever Wicked: Commanding Red
Second Edition
Kaylee Grayson
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Kaylee Grayson

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Red shivered and pulled her cloak tighter around her. She tugged the hood over her forehead, wishing the darn thing had been made of something warmer, like wool or fur, rather than velvet. According to the seamstress in the village who'd sold it to her, this style of cloak was the latest rage, a knockoff of a diamond-studded number that Snow White herself had worn to a ball. But who gave a damn about how it looked when she couldn't feel her extremities anymore?

"I should have never listened to Cinderella," she mumbled under her breath. "Oh, buy the velvet one." She mimicked her friend by pitching her tone an octave higher than her own husky voice. "The boys won't be able to resist you in that one."

Red gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering and hoisted the basket she carried higher in the crook of her elbow. That's what she got for listening to a woman who'd married a prince. Sure, Cinderella still came down to the market once a week to mingle with the common folk she'd left behind, but honestly, what did a princess know about trudging through the woods in freezing weather? She probably had servants whose only purpose was to make sure she never had reason to suffer a single indelicate shiver. Servants who'd strip naked and warm her with their own body heat if that's what it took.

Red shivered again, this time not entirely from the cold. It had been too long since she'd felt another person's body pressed up against hers -- naked or otherwise. In fact, she couldn't even remember the last time she'd had sex.

A sudden insistent throb between her legs told her she was lying to herself. Red scowled. No point denying it. Two years later, she was still pining away after the stable boy who'd fucked her brains out in a back alley before disappearing for good. She'd been trying to forget Jonah ever since he'd swept her off her feet after a few too many drinks at Mother Goose's Tavern. Then he'd left her with nothing but a heap of memories that wouldn't fade.

Bastard.

She sighed and yanked on the hood again. Was she cursed? Why was everyone vanishing around her? First Granny, then Jonah. Even Cinderella left, though granted, Red knew exactly where she was. Then again, the castle might as well be on an entirely different world, since Red was about as likely to walk in and visit with the princess as she was to fly to Sky Land on a flying lily pad leaf.

She scrunched up her nose in frustration, but even that simple movement sent a sharp jab of pain through her face.

Great. A few more minutes out here and she'd have frostbite to show for her trip into the village. Wouldn't the boys just flip for a girl with a purple, frostbitten nose?

Annoyed, she kicked at a rock in the path. It didn't come loose -- probably because it, too, had frozen solid -- and a new stab of agony jolted through her right foot. "Argh!"

"Oooooh."

Red froze. She slammed her lips together and pressed a hand to her heart. Was that a moan? She'd screamed when she'd hit her toes, but that second sound surely hadn't come from her.

She spun around quickly and darted a glance around her. She was alone on the path, as always. Her grandma's house, which Red had inherited after it became clear that Granny was gone for good, stood alone in the middle of the Wild Forest. She had no neighbors. The path that ran past her quaint little place continued on into the next village, but that was a two-day walk. She hardly ever encountered another person on this road, though there was plenty of wildlife to keep her company.

She released the breath she'd been holding. That was probably it. The noise had come from a mouse, a squirrel, or some other tiny critter as miserable as she was. She'd passed a few animals since leaving the village, and birds constantly flittered above her head.

Nothing to worry about.

She'd just started moving when the sound came again, louder this time. Her heart slammed against her ribcage. The growl beneath the moan was unmistakable now...

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