Read Into the Woods Online

Authors: Linda Jones

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #Contemporary, #Historical, #Love Stories, #Paperback Collection

Into the Woods






Into The Woods




Linda Jones







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Please Note


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


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Copyright © 2001, 2011 by Linda Winstead Jones


Cover and eBook design by eBook Prep


Thank You.





For Ginny





Chapter 1


Tanglewood, Mississippi, 1875


"Everyone knows witches make the best sweets," Gretchen said softly as she followed the narrow path through the woods. Hanson, her twin brother, walked close behind her. Even though he was only a few minutes younger than she, he sometimes acted more like a baby than a nine-year-old.

"What if she wants my spit again?" he asked warily.

"Then you'll give it to her," Gretchen snapped. "You have plenty to spare."

It was full-blown summer, and the low branches of leafy trees and straggling bushes grew over the path that wound through the woods between their farm and Matilda Candy's cottage. Gretchen pushed supple branches out of the way and continued on, determined. It was Wednesday, and the witch always made sweets on Wednesday.

"Mother will miss us," Hanson protested.

Gretchen stopped in the middle of the overgrown path and spun to face her brother. They stood nose-to-nose. "She is not our mother!"

"She said we were to call her—"

"She is our father's wife, but that does not make her our mother," Gretchen interrupted. She had her suspicions about Stella Hazelrig, the woman who had been her stepmother for the past three months. "And she certainly won't miss us," she added softly. "Even if we never come home, she won't miss us." She turned her nose up in the air. "She'd probably be glad if we never came home."

Hanson looked like he wanted to argue. But he didn't.

Soon enough they reached the end of the path, and there before them stood the Candy house. Made of stone and cypress, with an arched doorway and many windows, it was very different from Gretchen's own family's simple home. Matilda Candy's cottage looked much older and sturdier, as if it had been standing in this clearing forever and would continue to stand, unchanged, for countless years to come.

All the fun took place behind the cottage, Gretchen knew. There, Miss Matilda's large separate kitchen stood, her huge garden bloomed all year round, and a gigantic greenhouse held all kinds of exotic plants. Sometimes the witch worked in the courtyard between the kitchen and the greenhouse, grinding up plants or simmering some evil brew in her huge, black cauldron.

Gretchen closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Do you smell that?" she whispered.

"Yep," Hanson answered softly. "What do you think she's made this time? Caramels? Spiced nuts?" Those were his favorites.

Gretchen took a deep breath. "A sweet bread, I think," she announced as she breathed out again. "And maybe... something else."

No longer worried about the outcome of their adventure, Hanson stepped past his sister. He rubbed his palms together. "If she's in the greenhouse, we can swipe whatever we want."

Sometimes they were lucky, and Matilda Candy was busy in her greenhouse while the sweets cooled. Staying close together, Gretchen and Hanson ran on light feet to the corner of the house. Hugging the wall, they rounded the corner, keeping an eye out at all times for the witch. Luck was not with them today, though. They could see her through the open window of her kitchen. She stood before the huge brick oven that formed one wall of the building, peeking in at something, squinting as if she were not quite happy with what she saw. Bread cooled on the windowsill.

"Until we met Miss Matilda," Hanson confided in a whisper, "I thought all witches were ugly."

Matilda Candy was not ugly, not at all. She had fair hair, a blonde not quite as pale as the twins' own curls, and strange eyes that were not blue or green—but both. Gretchen had looked into those eyes many times. They were pale green on the inside, but were rimmed with a darker blue. It was hard not to stare, when those witch's eyes landed on you.

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