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The Littlest Red Hood Chapter 3
By
Molly

The Littlest Red Hood Chapter 3

Series: The Littlest Red Hood

One small battle changes everything.

Cordelia ran at a hard sprint, pushing herself harder, trying to outrun all of the emotions that had been building inside her. When she couldn’t push it any further, she slowed to a jog. Finally, slowly to a walk, she started to feel the cool air and realized she should have brought her cloak.

Taking in her environment for the first time, she realized she had run a lot further than she had planned. Cordelia was almost two miles outside of the village and there was a stitch forming in her side. She stopped and bent over with her hands on her knees, so her head was down when she heard the twig crack. Her head didn’t snap up, but it took some work not too. All of her senses were suddenly alive and she could smell smoke, so there had to be a campsite close by.

She straightened up and put her hands on her hips to get one of her knives and that is when she remembered, she hadn’t brought any weapons. ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ she thought to herself.

Cordelia stretched, making it seem like she was unaware of the sounds of something creeping her way. She didn’t see anything, but knew she had two options; run and hope she made it back to the village where she knew the secret stashes of weapons were, or she could stand and fight. Her decision was made for her when she heard another set of footsteps; then another. That made three of whom or whatever was coming up behind her.

If she had weapons she would have fought, instead, she broke into a hard sprint. Her footsteps were loud on the path, but she could hear whoever they were crashing through the branches and leaves behind her.

She had the advantage of knowing the woods, but her lungs were burning and it was so hard to breathe. It didn’t matter, they were behind her, slowing down wasn’t an option. She heard them break off and wanted to see, but refused to look back for fear of losing her footing.

Finally, she saw the first few houses, but they were getting closer. Cordelia saw something she had been praying to see, a light. There was a light on in Cade’s house. She wasn’t sure she had enough air left to scream, but she had to try.

“Cade!” she screamed, jumping the small pile of wood he had beside his porch. She hit the door just as he opened it. He caught her and swung her behind him, protecting her. His sword was in his hand and he was ready for a fight.

Cordelia collapsed on the floor behind him and grabbed the knife off his ankle.

“What’s after you?” he asked, softly keeping his eyes focused on the dark.

In between gasps she managed to get out, “Don’t- know-only-heard-at least-three.”

That’s when they heard the howls. They were soft but loud enough that there was no doubting what it was; Werewolves. Werewolves had chased her into the village. There were a couple of little answering yips that sounded closer.

Her lungs were burning and she thought she was going to throw up, but she managed to stand up and step out on the porch with Cade. She leaned on the door frame for a moment because her legs felt weak. Neither one of them talked as they walked off the porch.

Four figures were coming towards them through the dark, two from the left, and two from the right. They placed their backs together to face the figures and then realized it was four of their men.

“We heard them,” Anthony whispered, coming closer towards them. They were all in various stages of dress. Anthony was only in his underwear and boots. At least the other three had pants on.

“Spread out. Make sure they're gone,” Cordelia breathed.

They formed a fan and spread out until they found tracks in the dirt. The remaining five of the team joined them.

“We checked the southern and western side of the village. No tracks and nothing seemed disturbed,” Matthew said softly.

“You heard them too?” Cade asked. He was shocked they had heard it all the way on the other side of the village.

“Don’t sound so surprised Cade, that’s what we’re trained for. I did have to wake the other four though,” Matthew said grinning.

“No you didn’t, shut up Matthew,” they all began to protest.

“Focus,” Cordelia hissed. “We need to make sure there are no werewolves in our village.”

“If they are, they’ll be dead,” one of the men behind her whispered. 

The tracks showed there had been three. It showed them coming in and stopping about ten yards from Cade’s house. Cordelia’s tracks were the only ones that continued until they disappeared at Cade’s porch.

“They must have stopped when I called you,” she said to Cade.

He agreed and then asked what everyone else was thinking, “The tracks are coming from the opposite direction of your house, Cord. Why were you out of the village so late at night?”

“I was in bed and couldn’t sleep so I decided to run. I didn’t realize I ran almost two miles. By the time I did, I heard the first sounds of something creeping up on me. I didn’t have any weapons on me so I ran.” She refused to give them the whole truth.

“You outran three werewolves, Cord?” Anthony said, sounding impressed.

She grinned at him, “I wasn’t sure I was going to make it for a minute. I couldn’t breathe and my lungs still hurt. Good thing Cade was still up.”

“I wasn’t up. I had fallen asleep with the candle still lit. I heard you call my name, but I wasn’t sure for a brief second. It sounded so strange.”

They all looked at each other and snickered. “Yeah, you thought it was a dream coming true, hearing Cordie calling your name,” Anna said.

“Cause that’s the only time he’ll ever hear that,” Luke said, and they all laughed harder.

“Oh, Cade,” Mathew sang in falsetto.

Cordelia’s face turned red because of what had happened between them earlier. She was glad that it was too dark for them to see it. Cade didn’t look at her, so she knew he was thinking it too.

“That’s enough,” she snapped, “It’s almost dawn. Go back home get some more sleep because we are going to need to patrol the perimeter tomorrow and see if they have a lair nearby, or if they were just strays that wandered too close looking for a place to camp for the night.”

She handed Cade back his knife, “Thank you for opening the door.”

“Anytime,” he said softly.

There was something in his eyes that made her squirm. “Cordelia, don’t ever go running at night alone and never be foolish enough to go out without your weapons. You, of all people, know better than that.”

“It wasn’t like I did it on purpose, Cade,” she snapped. “I was a little confused about…” but she stopped, deciding she was not going to get into this in front of everyone.

Matthew put his arm around her breaking the tension. “Come on Cord, we will walk you back.”

They walked her back to her house and insisted on checking it to make sure everything was the way she had left it. Satisfied that nothing had been disturbed and no one was hiding, they left. 

She got back into her nightclothes, crawled into bed, and fell asleep almost immediately.

*

The next morning Cordelia slept in; something she never did and cursed herself for it. She needed to talk to Bishop Lucius before the rumors started.

Cordelia lived behind the church and she didn’t even make it inside before four different people had stopped her and asked if it was true about the wolves. She had a sick feeling in her stomach by the time she entered the church, that if they all knew then so did the Bishop.

She walked behind Deacon John. As usual, he had his head down writing. “Hi John, is Bishop Lucius in his office? I really need to talk to him?”

When John turned to look at her, she saw how awful he looked. His thin frame looked smaller and he had dark circles under his eyes. “John, are you alright?” 

“Y-yes Cord-d-delia, I w-w-w-will tell h-him.” He stood up slowly and headed up the stairs.

John looked really bad and she wondered if he was getting sick. A moment later he came back down and told her to go up.

“Ah, Cordelia come in, come in. I was wondering when you were going to come to see me.” The Bishop was sitting behind his desk and motioned for her to sit in the chair across from him.

“Sorry, sir. I finished my morning prayers and came right over. I slept a little later than normal.”

“It seems to be going around. John had a difficult time getting up also. I am starting to believe he has a virus,” the Bishop said with obvious irritation. “So tell me your version of last night’s events.”

Cordelia started her story with not being able to sleep but left out why she couldn’t sleep. She told him everything else ending with Matthew walking her home.

He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “Cordelia, I understand not being able to sleep, it happens to the best of us sometimes, but going for a run alone at night without weapons is foolish.” The tone of his voice showed that he was disappointed in her lack of judgment.

“I know sir and it will never happen again. I would like to gather my men and go look for a resting place; if it is alright with you of course.”

He sat forward and started moving papers around, not looking at her. “Cordelia, I have already sent the team on without you. I asked Cade to lead them out this morning when it was clear you were not coming.”

That statement knocked the wind out of her. She had seen him do that to other leaders as punishment for failing him. Cordelia had never had it happen to her.

“How long have they been gone? Maybe I could catch up with them,” she asked, keeping her voice steady.

He shook his head, “No Cordelia, they have been gone for about an hour now. I am sure one of them will fill you in when they get back. You seem to have been struggling with something for the last few months. Perhaps you should take this opportunity to sort yourself out.”

There was nothing she could say. It was true, she had made a poor judgment call and was being punished for it. 

He finally looked up at her. “You may go now.”

“Yes sir.” Her voice came out a lot steadier than she felt.

She was angry and hurt. ‘Why do people keep saying that I am changing?” she thought angrily. ‘I made one mistake, one time. One time in three years and the Bishop is acting like this. I didn’t get anyone killed. All I did was go running without a weapon.’

She was fuming by the time she left the church and was so angry that she wasn’t watching where she was going and slammed into someone. She hit them hard enough that it knocked her off balance.

Before she hit the ground Micah’s arms were around her. They stood still looking into each other’s eyes. ‘He is even more beautiful in the sun,’ she thought.

“Cordelia?”

“What?” she asked.

“Are you alright?” he asked again.

She realized he still had her in his arms around and quickly stepped back. “Yes, I’m fine. Are you alright?”

He grinned down at her. ‘He really shouldn’t do that,’ she thought as butterflies started in her belly.

“Yes, I’m fine. I was on my way to get something for breakfast. Aunt Helen is still sleeping last night off. Would you like to join me?”

She was hungry and deep down she was excited at the thought of spending more time with him. Plus she had some time to kill before her team came back.

“That would be great.”

He gave her another amazing smile. “Good.”

They went to the only inn in the village. Thankfully it was mostly empty, but the people that were still there were staring at them and whispering amongst themselves. They ordered their breakfast and Micah looked around the inn. After a few scans, he leaned across the table, “Everyone is talking about us.”

Cordelia smiled, “You noticed huh?”

“They’re trying to figure out who I am.”

“More like they're wondering why you’re sitting with me.”

He furrowed his brow and asked, “Why would sitting with you be a bigger deal than who I am?”

“They all know you’re Helen’s nephew.” She shrugged. “But I never eat with anyone.”

He laughed and leaned back in his chair. He didn’t believe her, but her expression must have told him that she was telling the truth. “You’re serious aren’t you? You never come here with Cade or anyone else?”

She crossed her arms across her chest and sighed. “I told you last night that Cade and I were just friends and I meant it. I don’t date because I’m not home enough to date.”

“Other people on the Red Hood date. Some of them are even married. Is it that there is no time, or is it a personal preference not to get close to anyone?”

“Personal preference,” she mumbled, not feeling comfortable talking about her lack of a love life. “So why aren’t you married?”

He looked down and ran his hands over his shirt straightening it. “I was married. She died.” His voice was tight.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. His head snapped up and their eyes locked. For a brief second, she thought she saw true anger, but it couldn’t have been for her. She’d never met before last night. 

Luckily their breakfast arrived breaking the tense moment that had passed between them. They ate in silence, he paid and they left the inn.

Once outside, Micah smiled at her. “Thank you for having breakfast with me, Cordelia. I really should go check on Aunt Helen.”

“Yes, well, thank you for taking me to breakfast. I hope Helen is better. Tell her I asked about her.”

He leaned down and she felt his breath warm on her cheek as his lips pressed gently to her jaw. A shudder ran through her and she placed a hand on his arm to steady herself. He chuckled softly into her ear and she felt it down to her toes.

‘Lord, I need to get away from him,’ she fussed at herself as she suddenly remembered how wonderful it was to kiss him.

Cordelia let go of his arm and turned to walk away from him.

“Cordelia?” he called after her.

‘Don’t stop walking; just pretend you didn’t hear him.'

“Cordelia?”

She stopped and turned to face him.

“I will only be in the village for two or three more days. I was wondering if you would mind showing me around sometime.”

‘Say no, say no,’ she told herself. “Um, sure, when would you like to go?”

He grinned again, “Tomorrow. I’ll come by your cabin and if you’re home, we can go then.”

“Okay,” she said and walked away. There were butterflies in her stomach again at the thought of seeing him tomorrow.

She didn’t know what else to do, so she went to Cade’s house, hoping the men were back. They weren’t, so she sat on his porch and waited. It felt like forever and she was about to give up when she saw him walking towards her. He wasn’t shocked to find her on his porch, but he did look guilty.

“Cordelia, look I’m sorry the Bishop…” he started, but she held her hand up to stop him.

“I get it, Cade. I screwed up, and he did what he felt was right. So did you find anything?”

“There was a camp a little over two miles from here. You must have run right upon them and not known it.” His head went down and he shook it. “Cordelia, it’s my fault you couldn’t sleep and went for a run. I crossed a line with you that I haven’t crossed since we were younger and I’m sorry.”

Cordelia felt so guilty letting him take the blame, but she didn’t want to tell him about Micah. She touched his cheek and made him look at her. “Cade, really it’s fine. We are fine. Did they leave? Was there a trail?”

‘If all else fails, change the subject.’

“From what we can tell, they left camp after they left here. They are long gone now,” Cade said, taking the hint.

“To be on the safe side, I think we should take turns patrolling the village for the next few nights. We should do it in pairs. Tell the other men to get a nap during the day while they can, because we might be up all night. I will meet you guys in the center of town by the well at dusk.”

She was walking away but Cade called her back.

“Cord, do you ever think about us? You told me once before that you loved me. Do you still? Do you still love me, Cordelia?”

For a moment he looked like he did when he was sixteen and they were discussing their future plans. She told him that she would give up her plans to be with the Red Hood if he wanted her to. He said they couldn’t be married, because he had nothing to offer her. She told him that she loved him more than she had ever loved anyone, and that was all she needed to be happy. Cade said that he loved her too, but it would never work because his future was with the Hoods.

At that moment something inside her hardened. She threw herself into her studies and trained with a passion that couldn’t be matched. She put her feelings for Cade away and never looked back, but of course, she still loved him. She always would. It wouldn’t change anything so she didn’t tell him.

“I have to go, Cade.”

‘All this time and he was just now bringing this up?’ she fumed. 

All of sudden she realized why Cade was acting so strange towards her. The reason was sitting on her porch looking absolutely amazing. ‘This must be what the devil looks like,’ she thought, looking into Micah’s beautiful face.

 

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