Phoebe prayed the man sitting across from her believed she was sleeping. He had left off further conversation when she relaxed into the corner and allowed her mouth to go slack. She cracked open one eye and observed him. Eyes closed, he too, appeared to be resting. She didn’t believe that for an instant. The carriage slowed and the highwayman opened his eyes. Phoebe sighed as if the slight disturbance had intruded upon her sleep and she slumped more heavily into the corner.
A moment of silence followed before the door opposite her opened, then clicked shut. The carriage swayed slightly and she knew he had climbed up top. The vehicle settled and she opened her eyes and scooted closer to the door. They swayed left as the road curved. She gripped the handle and carefully opened the door. The latch released with a tiny click.
Phoebe held her breath, but no cry of discovery came from above. The carriage hugged the shoulder of the road so that she could nearly touch the tree branches. She lifted her skirts, poised to jump, but hesitated at sight of the fast moving ground. She had fallen from the carriage earlier and was none the worse for wear. Hadn’t they been moving slower then? She glanced at the dark forest. If she injured herself, how far would she have to walk to civilization? That challenge, she realized, paled in comparison to her uncle’s reaction if he discovered she’d been closeted away with a man for days. Phoebe jumped.
She hit the ground quicker than anticipated. The impact knocked the wind from her. She wheezed for air as a sharp pain shot through her head. The retreating carriage blurred in her vision, seeming to vanish into the yawning mouth of a black cave. She scrambled to her feet and plunged into the fuzzy darkness of the trees.
A sound emanated behind her, but the pounding inside her head muffled it beyond recognition. Phoebe closed her eyes and tried willing the pain into submission. She opened them just in time to miss a low hanging branch. The quick swerve brought her to her knees.
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Genre – Historical Romance
Rating – R
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