Blurbs & Excerpts!
It was barely a sound.
The soft scrape of a boot on the floor. The rub of a shoulder against the stone wall. A muffled cough.
I was awake in an instant. Something was different. There was a tension in the air.
Throwing my covers aside, I shivered when my feet touched the icy flagstone floor. Creeping over to the high-arched windows, I parted the brocade curtains just enough to peek out. All was quiet and still. The newly fallen snow lay undisturbed, glistening and sparkling in the moonlight.
Perhaps I had imagined it?
This one just beyond my bedroom door.
A horrible calm settled over me, as if a long anticipated storm had finally broken. I had been waiting for this day. Dreading it.
My stepmother had finally sent someone to kill me.
With my only escape route now blocked to me, I had to think fast. Using both hands, I pushed open the heavy curtains. Placing my hand on the black ebony frame, I once again looked over the winter scene below. The peace of a winter’s eve now shattered. My bedroom was far too high to risk a jump, but perhaps I could climb out onto the ledge and make my way to the stone balustrade of the room next door.
There was the screech of metal against metal. The scrape of a key. They were unlocking my door.
Running across the room, I picked up the small wooden spindle chair by the perpetually cold fireplace. It was one of the few pieces of furniture I was allowed in my sparse, would-be prison. Hefting it high, I raced back to the window. I hesitated. The moment I shattered the window, there would be no turning back. I would have to run and keep running. I squeezed my eyes shut and smashed the chair against the glass with all my might. It shattered, sending sharp shards skittering across the floor. Grabbing the blanket off my bed, I placed it over the jagged pieces. Stepping up to the window, I tossed the remnants of the bedcovers over the sill, cutting my finger in the process. I watched in horrid fascination as three warm, crimson spots of blood fell upon the snow on the ledge, melting it.
As I gingerly stepped onto the sill, the bedroom door opened. Looking over my shoulder, I saw three men enter. The brawn and bulk of their size belied their almost silent entry.
With a cry, I stepped onto the ledge, quickly turning to grasp the chilled stone. A bitter wind cut through the threadbare fabric of my nightgown as remnants of the broken window cut into my bare feet.
Morbid curiosity getting the better of me, I peered back into the pitch black interior of my room. The three men approached. So similar they could be brothers, each was tall with broad shoulders and a harsh angular face. They wore animal skins and furs. Trophies of their past kills.
Spurned on by their fearsome look, I dug my fingernails into the stone façade and tried to slide my foot to the right. It slipped on the ice-covered ledge. My cry of alarm echoed across the still forest sending sleeping birds into flight.
“Well, the lass has spirit. I will give her that,” said one of the men happily, a note of appreciation in his dark voice.
“Good. This would be no fun if she didn’t have some fight to her,” said another while clapping the first on the shoulder.
“There is no point in running. We will only hunt you down,” said the third to me.
“Why have you come?” I asked.
“You know why.”
I could feel all three men assessing me. No doubt, the bright moonlight was shining through my gown, leaving little to their lascvious imaginations. Was I to be used for their pleasure before they killed me? I cast a look over my shoulder to the drifts below. I could hear new voices outside, their conversation carrying across the hushed midnight landscape. More men.
“Are you going to be a good girl and come along quietly?” asked the first. With his feet planted and his arms crossed over his massive chest, he made for a foreboding sight.
“I could scream,” I warned. The words came out weak and trembling as my teeth had begun to chatter from the cold.
“And no one would come to your aid.”
The truth of their words sent the air rushing from my lungs. I was completely alone. The wretched irony was this conversation with my killers was the first a human being had spoken to me in years. My stepmother had ordered the servants and villagers to ignore my presence and never to speak to me almost from the moment my father had drawn his last breath. I had been wrapped in a blanket of silence and solitude for as long as I could remember.
I could feel the tears pool in my eyes. As they dropped, they froze on my chilled cheek. “You could let me go,” I whispered.
“No. We can’t. You are a prize we have fought long and hard to claim. You belong to us now,” explained the third man.
My brow wrinkled at his words. “You’re not here to kill me?”
A bark of laughter came from all three men.
The first one answered for the group. “You may trust us in this, lass. The very last thing we plan to do is kill you.”
“Enough talk,” ground out the second grumpily. “The others are waiting below.”
He stepped before me. Laying a hand on my chest, he pushed.
Flailing, my outstretched hands scrambled for some kind of purchase but only met with air. The sound of rushing wind tormented me as I fell backwards into nothingness. My scream lost. What was only an instant felt like an eternity.
Then…instead of the cold embrace of death, I felt warmth.
I was held in a pair of strong arms. The feel of soft fur caressed my cheek. He smelled of pine and whiskey. I looked up into his bearded face, surprised when he gave me a wink.
“Well, men. It looks like I have caught some falling Snow.”
I was surrounded by hearty laughter.
With a start, I craned my neck around. Three large burly men stared back at me with interest. Another four men.
Seven in total.
With a screech, I twisted and turned my body, trying to break free. The man who held me, easily tossed me over his shoulder. I felt the heat of his large hand on the underside curve of my ass.
“You bastard!” I yelled. “Get your hands off me!”
I had a brief moment of satisfaction when I felt his hand move away. Then there was a burst of raw pain. His open palm had struck my right buttock, prickling hot needles raced over my chilled skin.
Shock kept me immobile.
One of the other men circled round my captor’s back. Grabbing my dark, ebony hair, he forced my head up. I winced at the twinge of pain.
Addressing the assembled men, he said, “Let’s get our new prize home so we can really begin her punishment.”
I opened my mouth to scream, but he shoved a gag between my red lips, tying it tightly behind my head.
Once upon a time, I was a princess named Snow White…now, I am the captive prize of seven huntsmen.