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Chapter Five

Its not Lilly, Gran, its Maizie. Lilly was my mom. During one of her spells, it was almost impossible to talk to Gran.

I know that, Granny huffed. Havent gone completely off my rocker. You sound like her, is all.

Okay. Maizie would have to try to be more sensitive next time. No one liked being reminded that their mind was slipping.

Cant blame me for hearing Lillys voice. I always think of her when Ive spent the day with Riddly.

Silence settled through the phone connection while Grannys explanation sunk in. Umm How to put this? Did Daddy visit you today?

He didnt tell you he was coming?

No, he didnt. I havent talked to him in a long time. The back of her throat dried, made it hard to swallow and her eyes stung. She wouldnt cry.

Well, dont be angry with him, Little Red. Hes so busy these days. Doesnt even have time to play a round of Kings. She tsked, and Maizie could picture her shaking her head. Hes just so wrapped up in work. Not good for the boy. He didnt used to work so much. And now hes worried about you.

Me? A bitter smile trembled across her lips and she swiped at a runaway tear. Whys he worried?

Same as always. Thinks youve spread your finances too thin. Worried youll sacrifice the bakery to keep the cottage for me. Granny stopped talking, but it didnt feel like shed finished her thought.

Gran?

He thinks I should sell the land, Maizie. I told him you said the business was doing fine, but

What if Anthony Cadwick was right and Gran was holding on to the land for Maizie because she didnt know what else to do for her? Why else would she keep having these delusions about Riddly coaxing her to sell?

Gran, you know you cant live in the cottage alone anymore, right?

Of course, dear. Dont get around as well as I used to.

And you know I want to live here. In the city. Near the bakery?

Yes, Little Red, I know how much you think you love the city.

Think? Maizie smiled at that. Gran always believed she knew Maizie better than she knew herself. That means no one will live in the cottage.

Yes, dear. I understand.

Then tell me the truth. Why is it so important to hold on to the land?

Because I made a promise, of course.

To who? To Dad? Maizie asked.

Your father? No. Riddly never understood. He still doesnt believe. No, dear. I promised the wolf. My beautiful silver wolf. Our land stands as a buffer between his world and ours. I promised hed always have that buffer.

Maizies breath caught, memories swamped her brain, that silky fur, those hypnotic eyes, the erotic dream. She pushed the distracting thoughts away.

The wolf didnt want her to sell. A few weeks ago she wouldve rolled her eyes at the statement, but having met the mysterious beast it didnt seem so farfetched.

Maizie didnt care why Granny wanted to keep the cottage. She didnt want to sell. Maizie wouldnt allow it to be sold. Simple as that. It was the very least she could do for a woman whod given her the last good years of her life.

Maizie?

Yeah, Gran. Im still here.

He said youve been late on your loan payments. Next week will make you a full month behind. Is that true?

An uneasy weight sank to the bottom of her belly, sat there like bad seafood. How could Gran know her payment history? Who told you that?

Is it true?

Yeah, it was true. Shed make the payment, but thered be a late fee, which would only make finances tighter. There was no way Gran couldve known though. Someone must have told her. Someone not made of twisted memories and wishful thinking. Someone real.

Im making the payments. Everything is fine. Now whove you been talking to?

Riddly. It was Riddly. He said Her voice was soft, unsure. And when her words trailed off, Maizie knew she was realizing her mind must have been playing tricks.

Gran, Dads dead. He couldnt have told you whats going on with my loan. Think. Who was it?

Whoever was feeding her personal financial information about Maizie was obviously after the land. Hed use whatever means necessary, including making an old woman feel guilty for aging. But impersonating her dead son? That was beyond low.

He said he was Riddly. I didnt believe him at first. But I get confused sometimes. He looks like Riddlya little. I just miss my boy.

I know. I miss Dad too. But its not him. Someones trying to trick you into selling the land and I think I know who it is. Ill talk to Clare, at the front desk. Well figure it out.

Thoughts of Gray Lupo pulled Maizie in two different directions. Her belly soured. Gawd, shed always considered herself a pretty good judge of character. How could her instincts and libido be so off?

Maybe Gran meant someone else. Gray had seemed happy when Maizie told him she wouldnt let anyone get their hands on Grannys land. If she didnt know better shed swear he really cared about Granny.

Ugh. Im grasping at straws.

Youre sure you dont need the money, Little Red? Granny sounded suddenly lucid. I promised the wolf, but hed understand my granddaughters needs come first.

Im sure. The wolf can relax. I wont allow the land to be sold either.

Ah, what a strange twist of fate, Granny said.

Whats that?

All those years protecting the two of you from each other and here you are. Each protecting the other from the world.

Yeah. Twisted alright. Maizie couldnt help thinking her life wouldve been a lot easier if the big, bad wolf had stayed in the misty world of bedtime stories where he belonged.



| Little Red and the Wolf | c