The Queen of Summer’s Twilight, Chapters 1-3.

© Charles Vess 2019  

Well, I guess now no one can ever accuse me of being safe and staying in my zone. After years and years of pushing and pulling at the words and characters, I’ve finally decided to self-publish my first novel, “The Queen of Summer’s Twilight”.

Why self-publish you ask? Well I do have an agent but she as well as my previous agent have read the book and suggested that my writing voice is too old fashioned to sell in the contemporary marketplace. And too, I was told that given the current backlash against writers that aren’t speaking from an authentic cultural orientation that I would be attacked for using a protagonist that is a half Scotts, half Jamaican and a young woman at that. But damned if I’m only going to write about 68-year-old white males. Where’s the fun in that?

So, I could either let my story languish unread or suit up and go tilt at that self-publishing windmill again.  

Consequently, I’ve asked my good friend Liz Phillips (teacher, fellow writer and maker of delicious mouth-watering scones) to do a very necessary final round of editing to rid the manuscript of my persistently passive voice. I’ve tried and tried to do this myself, to no avail. Once those edits are complete I’m going to serialize it here on this blog and see what kind of response I get. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll release a print version.

My story, after all, was an unforeseen gift that simply lodged in my brain almost fully formed and as its custodian I feel like I need to go ahead and give it back to the world.

One morning 6 years ago, I awoke from a particularly vivid dream. In it I was looking down on a vast field of dead
grass with two people on a motorcycle speeding across it, leaving a burning track behind them. As I got up and dressed I started humming Richard Thompson’s song ‘Vincent Black Lightning’. Later, driving to my studio the
two characters began to ‘speak’ to me, telling me their story. I listened carefully and wrote down what I remembered. For the next 3 weeks the story would pick up where I’d left it the day before. At the end of those weeks I had a complete plot with a beginning, middle and end. After lots and lots and lots of revisions and suggestions from friends (Thanks Stina, Mette, Delia, Catherine, Liz, Bryan, Kathy, Carolyn, Fran and Ellen – amongst others) I’m now pretty satisfied with my story which is based on the Scottish ballad ‘Tam-lin,’ but set in contemporary Inverness as well as in the realm of Faerie.

I can’t wait for you to read it and let me know what you think!


        At the crest of the hill Janet braked the cycle and planted booted feet firmly to either side as she studied the landscape of brittle, knee-high grass flowing away from her in all directions.

        Struggling to balance the heavy machine she cut its engine. In the sudden silence that followed Janet became uncomfortably aware that this strange world was utterly devoid of any bird song or the low jangle of the telly in another room or even the drone of a distant car. A light breeze, though, stirred the bone-dry grass, striking each blade against the other, producing an insistent rattle that was the only sound that broke the profound silence of that awful plain.

        For as far as she could see there was only that vast sea of dead grass, broken occasionally by a blackened tree until in the far distance it swept up against a high, sharp ridge of dark rock.

        Above her the sky was a deep, twilight-blue expanse sprinkled with a multitude of stars and a crescent moon that gently illuminated everything beneath it, turning her chocolate skin a shade darker. 

Coughing suddenly from the acrid smoke that began to billow around her Janet turned to look back the way she’d come and saw a long black ribbon of charred grass that marked her cycle’s passage. At her feet, it was still burning.

        “Bloody hell, if this is Elfland, then that damned queen can keep it, because its shite!”

        The smoke triggered another spasm of hacking that brought tears to her eyes and left an oily grit on her face. Wiping her eyes with the back of one hand she squinted into the distance.

        Damn, where are they? Got to be here somewhere! 

        Her face set in a grim mask, Janet forced herself to once again master the unfamiliar weight of the cycle. Kicking it back into life, she tore across the endless plain followed only by that ribbon of flame and the blackened track she left behind.

Chapter One

         Twelve days earlier.

          When the man appeared, Geoffrey was the first to spot him. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon, and the boy hovered at his favorite spot, the sweets aisle of the newsagent’s small store, greedily eyeing a packet of milk chocolate toffees. The clattering of the bell over the front door announced a new customer and Geoff glanced up eagerly, hoping it was one of his friends with some spare coin. And there he was. A man in a floor-length leather coat with a high collar and flashing buttons plainly proclaiming as if over the loudspeaker at a local football match that he wasn’t from around there.

          And then, when he spoke to Mr. Graferty, the owner of the shop, his accent was so thick that Geoff was certain he couldn’t have cut it even with his Gran’s sharpest knife, the one she used to slice the Sunday roast. Boredom slipped away as the lad immediately slammed out the door looking for his mates.

          Fortunately they were close by, so all five boys followed the stranger after he exited the shop, and walked behind him all the way to the end of the sidewalk on the outskirts of their village. The lads paused there, uncertain if this new game would have any payoff. But the intricate tooling on the stranger’s full-length leather coat and its flashing silver buttons looked so unearthly that it practically begged them to follow. So they did. All the way along the tarmac of the single-track road out to the abandoned estate, miles from the small village.

          At first they kept a few steps behind, just in case the mysterious stranger got angry at their crude jokes or the occasional small pebble they tossed at his high leather boots. But once they realized that the man was paying absolutely no attention to them at all, they grow bolder, playing games of tig using the man as base.

          Their youthful persistence appeared to pay off when he stopped before the tall rusted iron gates of the old Lynn place. And then, when he pulled a key out of one of the leather packets laced through his wide belt they caught their breath. Somehow each boy instinctively knew that the heavy, ornately fashioned key he held in his hand was never made to unlock any front door except this particular one.

         Inserting it in the enormous metal lock, encrusted with rust and bird droppings, the man struggled for a moment before he could twist the key. Then, with a sharp metallic scream, the gate finally swung open leaving the boys whooping in shared delight.

          Of course, each one of them had listened to a hundred different stories about the Lynn Estate as their parents and their friends gossiped over a slow pint at the pub. They already knew that before the last of that family, the old Dowager passed away, she had established a trust fund that still paid the estate’s property taxes while far distant relatives in Australia and Canada continued to argue over exactly who would inherit the place. But none of them had the legal right to move so much as a single stone. So, here it sat, slowly returning to the ground from which all the stone had been quarried so many years before.

          “Da will have my hide if he finds out I’ve been out here!”

          “Won’t tell if you don’t.”                  

          “Besides, this is like a personal invite, innit?”

          “Yeah, one that not anyone else in the village ever got!”

           “Its not like we’re gonna threw any rocks at the windows.”

            “If there was any left to break…”    

            “Just sayin’.”

            “Right, right…”

             Following the stranger inside the gates they watched as he paused to stare up at the derelict skeleton of what must have once been a large, rambling manor house made of dour grey stone. The scatter of broken slate tiles from its collapsed roof and the charred timbers strewn across the yard all stood evidence to a long-ago fire. The dull fragrance of burnt timber still clung to the rain-soaked wood but it was the victorious abundance of mold that caused first Geoffrey and then Jamie to sneeze. In turn they both wiped their hands on their trousers.

          Deep in thought, the man carefully
picked his way through the rubble to the far side of the building and walked
out into the family graveyard filled with headstones once inscribed with proper
names but now too weathered to read. Then, when he sank to his knees and began
to weep, the boys almost lost patience for their afternoon adventure.

          The stranger’s deep emotional outburst made them feel uneasy, as if they were witnessing something too private for them to understand. Except for Geordie, whose own father had recently passed away and who, although he would never tell his mates, had run straight to his bedroom after the funeral service and bawled silently for hours.

          His younger cousin Jamie, swinging from a limb of an ancient yew tree that bent protectively over the graveyard let out a low howl of triumph when the stranger got back to his feet. Still curious, they followed the man as he walked back toward the house. This time, though, he paused before a low stone shed whose windows had been bricked up for as long as anyone in the village could remember.

          And then, when the man fumbled for yet another key to unlock the heavy, metal door of the shed they all become electric with excitement.

          Every village boy or girl that had ever wandered the estate had made up stories about what was in this shed, swearing that they knew the absolute truth. Lately village folklore claimed that the mummified body of the Dowager’s brother was hidden inside, murdered with a cup of poisoned tea served from her own wrinkled hand. Moments later, when the door swung open and they followed the stranger in, all their bloodthirsty fantasies were dashed by its banal truth.

          It was simply a garage, packed tightly with old motorcars, each missing various parts, some entirely without their engines, lined neatly along one wall. There was even an ancient wooden carriage, decaying in the damp, velvety moss cushioned the hard edge of its enormous wheels and filled the interior of its cabin with a gentle carpet of soft green.

          However, sitting in the midst of that ruin, wrapped tightly in thick oilcloth, as if it were a present waiting for the proper person to come and claim it, was something else entirely. When, with some difficulty, the man unwrapped layer after layer of the cloth, what they saw was a curious looking motorcycle, clearly built for an age long past, though its chrome still shone even in the dim light of the windowless garage.

          To the boys’ delight, the stranger, his face set with determination, pulled a leather helmet from the satchel hung over his left shoulder and slipped it on his head. The boys scattered away from the doorway as he wheeled the cycle out into the yard and then followed him into the middle of an enclosed field not far from the house.

          From his first awkward attempt it was clear that the man didn’t know how to operate the machine’s complex controls. Geordie, whose father owned the motor garage in town and who had taught his son how to tinker with engines, thought he could show the stranger how to kick the cycle into gear. And, eagerly anticipating a long afternoon spent watching the man falling repeatedly off the bike, he sent his cousin back to the storage shed for the can of petrol he’d noticed sitting just inside the door. Unlike everything else there, the metal container was shiny and new, obviously not a long-term occupant of the dank room, perhaps even renewed periodically by the estate’s agent just for this very possibility. The trip was successful, and after unscrewing the cap Geordie filled the cycle’s fuel tank. Then, shyly
pointing to each control in sequence, he showed the man how to start the motorcycle.

           But with the first ferocious roar of the engine and a long belch of black smoke from its exhaust pipes the man took control of the enormous black machine. He and Geoffrey scampered back toward their chosen spot on top of the wall to sit and watch. Lithe and agile, Geordie easily scrambled up to the shared perch then looked down at his friend’s pleading face.

              “Hey. What about me?”

              “Right. Grab my hand then.”         

              Straining with effort he pulled the heavyset boy up to join them.

             “Oof! Geoff, if you want to keep up with us, you’ve got to stop eating every biscuit yer Gran offers you.”

              Geoffrey settled himself on the top of the rough stone thickly encrusted with lichen before replying, “Yeah. But them oatmeals of hern put me right in heaven.” Then looking back at their incredulous faces, he protested, ” Well, they do!”

              “Lard butt, they don’t let fatties in there.”

              “Hey, who told you that fibber?”

               Geordie cut through their chatter, hissing, “Shut it and pay attention, there’s plenty of laughs right in front of us.”

               All five heads snapped around to look out at the several acres of fallow grass sprinkled with remnants of stubble from some long since harvested crop that was the backdrop for their entertainment. The field, enclosed by the same high stonewall that they straddled, was accessed only by a sagging wooden gate that had long since shed any paint that might once have graced its surface.

                To their continual delight, the man was successful only at falling off the powerful bike again and again, so that he was soon covered head to toe with mud and torn grass, and the ground around him a jumble of muddy tire tracks. Much later, as he wearily set his foot on the clutch once more, the man grimaced as the young boys’ hoots of gleeful laughter filled the air.

                Gasping for breath, Geoffrey exhaled “This is way better than any of those daft shows on the telly.”

                But just when the boys began to get nervous about what their mums would say to them for staying out so late they clapped their hands with relief. The stranger finally succeeded in getting the great black machine in gear and managed to stay aloft long enough to steer it across the field directly past them. Guiding it cautiously out through the gate that he’d propped open earlier, the man waved his thanks for their help.

          Then, as the drone of the motorcycle faded into the distance, each boy looked at the other and grinned. That same grin was still on each lad’s face long after he was back home, cheerfully meeting whatever fate waited for him there.


          Thomas Lynn wiped the mud from his eyes, and firmly gripping the controls on the handlebars of the great metal steed, he concentrated on carefully guiding it along the strange surface that covered the roads of this brave new world. One gloved hand reached up to briefly touch the small pendant hanging from his neck. As he did, Thomas remembered what the old witch in the Land of Summer’s Twilight had said after she gifted it to him. “This will serve ta guide you in your quest. It once belonged ta your Queen and will lead you ta Her lost self, if you listen ta what it tells you.” And indeed, all afternoon Thomas had felt the pull of someone or something coming from the city that loomed now out on the horizon, far across the moor. The lights of that city beckoned to him as if they were a jeweled diadem on the brow of The Lady Herself.                                        

          There was just enough light left in the sky for Thomas to see far down the road to where dense storm clouds raced to greet him. Still caked with the mud and grass of that woeful field, he welcomed the certain deluge, wanting to be clean and fair-smelling when he greeted whatever it was that called out to him so strongly.                                                      

          Around him, the rolling landscape looked tantalizingly familiar, but the jumble of buildings crouched across its surface seemed, to him, out of place and ugly. As he encountered more and more of the strange metal machines that flew past on the road beside him he forced himself to accept them as an expected part of this strange new reality.  Thomas though, in his time, had seen stranger lands than this and so he leaned into the wind and feeling the first light touch of rain, smiled.

        Chapter Two


stared into the mirror and watched a crooked smile play across bright crimson
lips that accented the warm brown of her skin. Still furious with her father,
her brows were creased, her eyes dark with seething anger.


        “My guests will be here soon.”


        “Put on some nice clothes and for god’s sake fix your hair!”


        Maybe I should just tell him I’m having another one of my
bloody spells?

        Oh no, father Ive
fainted again…  I could just swan across
the bed here in my own damned room.


        I have to get out of this bloody house.


        From under
ragged tufts of hair that jutted from her freshly cropped scalp Janet’s hazel
eyes looked curiously back at the ‘new’ her as she whispered, “Okay, guess I should
have found a proper clipper to use for this shearing. Still, da will let out a
howl when he sees me like this!”

        Surprise then relief washed across Janet’s face as she placed
the pair of scissors on the polished marble table in front of the vanity.
Strewn on the plush carpet at her feet was a mound of what had been, until
moments ago, the thick black hair that she’d worn for as long as she could

wonder what mother would say?”

        That is if I even knew who she was? That is IF I’d ever even
meet her…

        Janet stood and shrugged into a leather jacket. It was new
and black and just slightly too big for her, but she liked the way it looked.
And most especially, Janet liked the way it made[LP15]  her feel.

at the mirror again, she was excited by the young woman who stood there gazing
defiantly back at the drab, lifeless room that surrounded her with its heavy,
dark wood furniture, the cream colored walls, and the canopy bed that had
always taken up more space than it should. It was a room that Janet had lived
in all her life, but one that she’d never had much say in how it looked.

        That bloody bastard still thinks I’m his little girl!

        Their latest argument had begun after Janet had returned that
afternoon and found her new painting plucked from its place on her bedroom wall. Days earlier she’d
been in the attic, rummaging through a massive pile of boxes on her
[LP16] quest to find some trace of her mother and
had discovered instead a small painting wrapped in layers of dusty fabric,
tucked in alongside a jumble of meaningless curios. After carefully unwinding
the cloth wrapping, Janet had been delighted by what she saw and immediately
hung the canvas beside her bed, replacing the dreary abstract piece that had
always been there.

        The new, brightly colored painting had been a comfort to fall
asleep with, and it had brought a smile to her lips when she opened her eyes
this morning. Now, just like that, it was gone. For some reason it had completely
infuriated her father, and that, in and of itself, had pleased Janet. However,
the anger that had contorted his face when she’d confronted him about his
latest ‘theft’ had surprised even her. His voice had thundered back at her
after she had demanded its return, “That painting was not yours in the first

        “But I…”

        “There’s nothing you can say, I’ve had it destroyed.”


         Soon both of them were
screaming at each other.


        Their argument had finally ended when Janet slammed the door
of her father’s study behind her just after he[LP18] demanded she clean herself up in time for
his dinner party that evening.

        I’ve put up with this kind of shit since forever, but I
don’t have to take it anymore, do I?

        She glanced out the wide bay window that filled almost the
entire far wall of her bedroom. If it weren’t pitch black outside, she would
have seen the precisely manicured grounds of her father’s estate that had in
recent years felt more like a prison than a home.

        If I stay here I’ll never grow up. Never. Ever. NEVER!

        Janet’s angry, impatient gaze focused on the too familiar
painting that once again hung to one side of her vast beige bed. Her eyes
clouded over.  “Boring! So bloody BORING!”
Her new canvas had featured a small
figure of an exotically armored knight posed in a landscape filled with
impossible colors that shimmered under a soft twilight sky strung with an
uncountable number of cascading stars. She had ached to be a part of its

        Fuck you

        Before she could think the better of it, Janet bent down and
scooped the wiry tangle of cut hair at her feet into a small waste container
which she tucked under one arm. Turning, she strode to the door and paused
there. Her free hand hovered over the light switch for a second as she
whispered, “Goodbye room” before plunging it into darkness.

        Trying to look more confident than she actually felt, Janet
followed the jangle of conversation that drifted up from below and hurried down
the broad, curving staircase to the ground floor where her father was hosting
his large, formal party. Then, just before Janet stepped into the great room
she paused and peered into it as if it were some kind of treacherous alien
environment, which, of course, it was[LP19] . The room’s high, vaulted ceiling rose
above elegant furnishings and richly paneled walls that were interrupted a
intervals by brightly-colored abstract paintings, framed in shining metal.
Precise looking young men and women filled the room. Unlike Janet, they were
dressed in proper evening clothes, the men in tuxes and the women in what
looked like very expensive gowns.

        I’ll bet every one of those dresses cost more than their
entire month’s salary.

        Her father stood in the midst of the crowded room easily
keeping his guests entertained. John Ravenscroft was a tall man, still
handsome, but going slowly to fat, though still exuding raw energy as well as a
natural assumption of his superiority over everyone there. When Janet finally
walked through the crowd toward him, the first thing he noticed was her newly
shorn hair.

         Letting out an
exasperated sigh, he asked, “Janet, what have you done now?” To which she
caustically replied “Nothing that I shouldn’t have done, ages ago.”

        Then he took in her leather coat, the ripped jeans and the
emphatic slogan slashed in bright red ink across her raven black t-shirt: Just
Do It! And an even darker scowl creased the usual symmetry of his face.

        Most of the party guests had heard at least a few tales of
Janet Ravenscroft’s more outrageous escapades, so they nervously stepped aside
as she sauntered toward her father, dark face cocked to one side. After she got
close enough to smell his cologne, Janet spat out, “Here, this is for you. You always loved it so.” Abruptly, she emptied
the contents of the waste container onto his intricately tooled Italian leather
shoes. Janet’s newly shorn hair fell thickly across them and the carpet at his
feet. Looking down, the elder Ravenscroft grunted with distaste and stepped
back, shaking away the dark wiry strands of hair. When he looked back up at his
daughter, she smiled bitterly at him and then let the waste bin drop, too. It
hit the carpeted floor with a dull metallic clang that punctuated her angry

        “Consider it a going-away present, daddy!”

        Janet turned then and strode out the front door, casually leaving it open behind her. Beside the drive there was a tight circle of men and women braving the cold autumn night for a smoke. Their heads turned with curiosity as Janet stalked past and hopped into her own car, a red convertible Ferrari that she had parked at the very end of the parking area earlier that day. The keys were already there, in the ignition, so she started the engine, shifted gears and headed down the long driveway, which ended in the massive gates that dominate the entrance to the Ravenscroft estate.

        Those gates were open now, allowing a late arriving guest to
enter. Janet flashed past the startled driver and out onto the long drive
beyond that eventually emptied onto a public street.

        Behind her, Janet could barely hear her father’s voice shouting emphatically, “Janet, come back here this instant!” She shook her head, enjoying the novel sensation of the cool night air whipping over her freshly shorn scalp and yelled back over her shoulder as loudly as she could, “Not on your bloody life!”


        Hours later Janet weaved on foot moving unsteadily down a deserted lane in downtown Inverness. On either side of her parked cars lined a street packed with shabby apartments and ground floor businesses, shut tight this late at night. Occasionally, overhead streetlights soaked the urban landscape around her with their yellow sodium stain. An unpleasant odor from one too many overflowing garbage bins curdled the cool night air. Oblivious to her surroundings, Janet was deep in a very one-sided conversation with every car that she passed.

        “I was just havin’ some fun.

        “Never been much for drinkin’ though. Mostly it tastes bloody
awful! Mostly…”

         A grin lit up Janet’s face then and without her almost habitual scowl her features were soft and lovely. “’Sides a drink in the face is nothing. ’Specially when it’s one of daddy’s little army men. Thought he was gonna take me back to the castle for my own good did he?”

        Janet plucked regretfully at the torn sleeve on her new
leather jacket. “Gave ‘im the slip, though. Right out the window in the loo.”

        She laughed, lurched over to a sleek sports car and sat down on its hood. There was a loud hollow thump as a shallow dent formed beneath her. Janet tilted toward the car parked just beside her Ferrari and whispered, “Okay. Is mine, a gift from my darlin’ daddy don’t you know?

        “Ha! Bribe more like…”

        Janet glanced blearily at the dull glow of the sprawling city
beyond and sighed. “Fucking ugly ain’t the half o’ it.” Then she stared into a
puddle of oil stained water just below her dangling feet, trying to focus on
the rippling streetlight reflected in it. “I get it, though. This is where I
live … so get used to it …”

        Just then a loud, insistent buzzing caught her attention. A
few lines from her current favorite pop song played loudly from an inside
pocket of her leather jacket before fading away into the night air. She fumbled
for her mobile, and then looked down at the message displayed on its screen.
Janet squinted trying to read the text, “Oh. What a surprise! Some words from
his highness.”

        One hand to her forehead, she performed a mock swoon, “Come
back. Come back. I will do anything for you daughter, if only you return.” Not
even looking at the screen, Janet continued to talk back to her father’s silent,
thumb-typed words, her voice getting higher and louder as each confused thought
tumbled from her mouth. “So, why didya take my painting, old man! Why?

        “Got no answer for me, have you… Then how about a few kind
words instead? Maybe a hug goodnight? Or, just plain be there when I need you.”
Her voice lowered then, imitating her father’s, “No, can’t do that dearest, I’m

        “Then how about telling me where my mother is, you wanker!”

        Angrily, Janet brushed away a tear that began to run down her
cheek. “I just want to see her…wanna talk to my own damned mother… got so much
I could tell her. Don’t I? But that’s just not ever gonna happen if he has anything to do
with it!”

        …Least I’m pretty certain she’s still alive. He’d have told
me if anything serious had happened to mum… wouldn’t he?

        Janet looked up into the night air and shouted “You would have told me about that, wouldn’t you, father? WOULDN’T YOU?

       Abruptly a gravely voice interrupted her soliloquy, “Hey, looks like we got us a wee Pakki right here.” Janet slipped to the pavement and lurched around to see two
men stalking toward her.

        “Got yourself some trouble with yer old man, have ya’

        The nearby streetlight clearly illuminated them both. The first sported an ugly buzz cut, revealing heavy tattoos that completely covered his scalp and disappeared under his frayed leather jacket. His companion was tall with shining blue-black skin and an Adam’s apple that looked so sharp that it could easily slice a sheet of paper. His long dreads were partially gathered under a loose wool cap.

        God, Janet why weren’t you paying attention!

        Suddenly, fear and adrenalin tore away at the thick alcohol-induced curtain that until now had smothered her thoughts.

        Now I could use one of father’s little helpers… but you left him back at the bar, didn’t you?

        The taller man, with the filthy dreads, smiled at her, his mouth full of rotting teeth. When he leaned toward her to speak, she could smell his rancid breath.

        “Hey, nice phone ya got there.”

        Helpfully his companion added “Real nice.”

        “Looks like you’re gonna drop it though.”

        “Give it here.”

        “We’ll take care o’ it.”

        “And you too come ta that…”

        Janet watched, mesmerized as the tall man casually began to wave a long blade under her face. It glinted sharply in the streetlight. His companion was now holding a tire iron tightly clenched in his fist. Desperate, Janet threw her mobile up into the air and turned to sprint down the street as fast as she could, frantically fumbling in her purse for the can of mace or
better yet the knife that she always carried with her.

        They’re in here.


        Behind her the two men scattered, trying to catch the phone before it hit the pavement and shattered. Soon though, Janet heard the pounding of their boots on the hard pavement close behind her. Certain that she was unable to out run them much longer her fingers frantically scrambled through everything that was jammed inside her purse. Finally, pushing aside her buried car keys she grasped the small aerosol of mace.

        “Got it!”

        Before she could pull the spray out though, Janet lurched round a corner and abruptly slammed into a young man sitting on a large
motorcycle. A Vincent Black Lightning. 1952. Its engine rumbling with eager
life. The driver steadied the bike and smiled back at Janet, completely
absorbed by what he saw deep in her hazel eyes. Unable to tear her own gaze
away, Janet, in that moment forgot about the danger in the rough urban landscape around her as her world shifted abruptly on its axis. Drowning in the man’s soft gaze she felt for the first time in her life, completely and utterly safe.

        And unaccountably, she remembered the knight in the stolen painting.

        Looks like him, sort

        Then, as the pounding of heavy, booted heels skidded to a halt a few feet behind her, Janet was jolted back into a world filled with
would-be muggers and indifferent fathers. The man on the motorcycle, though,
paid no attention to her pursuers. With his gaze locked on Janet’s, his
handsome face creased into a broad smile before he spoke for the first time,
“Would you join me on my noble steed?” Impulsively, Janet jumped on the bike,
her arms clinching tight around the young man’s waist. The cycle’s motor
revved, and suddenly they roared directly between her two pursuers and flew on
up the street.

        Craning her neck, Janet watched the hapless thieves quickly grow smaller in the distance, and howled a delighted victory cry into the

        Suddenly, in front of them, a short, heavyset man launched himself from between two parked cars directly at the cycle, making a desperate grab for Janet as she flew past. Her still nameless savior leaned casually to one side, tilting his bike, easily distancing them both from the intruder’s outstretched arms. As the man stumbled and rolled to his knees, she recognized the security guard she’d escaped from earlier in the bar and delightedly screamed, “Faster! FASTER!”

        Picking up speed, the powerful machine surged between several oncoming cars, carrying them both finally to safety. Still laughing, Janet turned back to her rescuer and studied his profile for a moment. It was then that she realized his leather helmet wasn’t like any she’d ever seen before.
Intricately tooled, it fitted tightly around his head and was open over his eyes and mouth, more like a medieval knight’s than the usual bulky helmet a biker wore.

        He turned then and spoke loudly enough to be heard over the exhilarating sound of the wind and the road, “Where would you have me take

        With her cheek pressed comfortably against the back of his coat she relaxed. The coat smelled sweetly of herbs that she couldn’t quite name, but they soothed her frayed nerves. Janet’s face broke into a wistful smile before she whispered simply, “Drive. Just drive.”

        “If you wish.”

Sorry, no copying!