By Jillian Bost
Matilda trudged down the country lane in a huff. She shouldn’t have been walking by herself this late in the evening, but Emma had stayed behind at the party to bat her eyes and giggle at every word Thomas Ward said. Matilda was the one who’d coaxed Thomas out of his shell, and taught him how to waltz. Yet Emma had been the one he’d stared after, as if she were the cupbearer and Matilda the desert. “You can’t dance, you great big drooling beast!” Matilda had yelled before storming out of his house.
Jealousy bit at her insides, and she winced. She drew her cloak tighter around herself, hating the wind that battered her face and cursing the moon that was hiding in the dark, for Thomas would be walking Emma home tonight, not her.
Matilda closed her eyes and imagined a new dance partner. This man would be taller than Thomas, stronger, and have a full head of lush black hair. He wouldn’t fall prey to the simpering lamb act of a bored young woman. He would know every dance, including the waltz.
She opened her eyes and gasped. “Oh my…”
“Good evening, milady. I’m sorry to have startled you.”
It was him. Tall, strong, and mysterious.Her dream.
Together they waltzed, though he moved as if he were pained. He released Matilda just as she caught a glimpse of yellow eyes. Some trick of the moon, she mused, which had peeked out from behind the clouds.
“Thank you for the dance.” He bowed, then hobbled away, curled in on himself.
“But wait! What is your name?” Matilda hurried after him, nearly stumbling over her skirt.
She gasped when he swung round, his snout and fangs shining in the light. “Oh dear,” she managed, before he closed in.