Red

November, 2017

You find him nestled neatly inside the crumbling trunk of the gnarled hangman's tree. He pretends that he does not see you for some time and busies himself gliding the shimmering edge of his paring knife along the slick, smooth skin of the apple in his hands. One after another, he slips a sliver of red along the tip of his tongue and works his jaw around it with a flash of straight white teeth between full lips.

 

"Are you lost, little lamb?"

 

Your stiff shoulders jerk, sweat-soaked fingers clench the slubby linen of your shirt and twist it into knots. He is staring at you with bared teeth and arched brow, an expression more snarl than smile.

 

"Would you like some?"

 

There is only a squeal of useless air when you try to speak, to explain why you chased the smoldering looks and glancing grazes of tapered fingers instead of settling into the safety of home for the night, but he is off his feet and walking toward you now. His slender hands curl around the points of your shoulders and he leans in close, a slender slice of apple tucked between those teeth. He smells like the woods, like moss and mists, like too much wild in one man's skin. There is a gleam of gold in his green eyes, a feral desperation digging into your flesh where he grips you. When the apple brushes your lips, you snatch it with an audible click and crunch.

 

Is that a laugh or a growl, you wonder as he traps your hand in his and leads you deeper into the forest.

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