"'Tis a magical place you've found, as well you know for the many times you've climbed these steps." The crackling voice sounded old, not childlike.

"Enough!" Anne was sick to death of being the whipping boy.

A wizened, bent old woman with a twisted cane shuffled out of the trees at the foot of the stairs. "Always you must see to believe."

"You must think me dicked in the nob, madam. There are no fairies." Anne threw the limb into the bushes behind her. "Be gone now, and tell my sister Sophia to try harder next time."

"How hasty and untrusting you young people are. Make your wish, child."

Anne studied the old lady. She looked like one of the gypsies who came around at harvest time. How much coin had she bilked out of Sophia for this prank? "Fine. I wish you to be gone."

The old woman cackled. "I should take you up on that, but your heart speaks differently. It speaks of struggle and loneliness."

What did this woman know of her life? "I'm sick of this game. Good day, ma'am." Anne turned toward the path.

"Wish for anything, my lady. Wish grandly." A gleeful, wicked light gleamed in the old woman's eyes. She lifted her cane and jabbed it toward Anne. "Little wishes are for little souls. They are not for the likes of you. Now wish. You are wasting my time."

Well, rats, she might as well wish for something. It would shut the woman up, everyone would have their fun, and Anne could go home.

"Perhaps a prince? Grand properties? Great beauty?" the old woman teased.

Anne dropped her hands and glared at the old hag. "You are bamming me."

"Anything is possible, miss." The old lady cackled. "You'll never know, if you don't believe."

Anne had the old woman now. She'd make the wish so impossible, so farfetched, that it couldn't be fulfilled. No fairy magic could conjure love. Everyone knew that. The mad woman would look like a fool. "Very Well. I wish for a handsome man so rich that will be able to provide a Season in Town for my sisters. He must also be passionately in love with me."

"Done!" the old lady crowed.

"You cannot be serious!" Anne turned to glower down at the old lady who had just taken the fun out of the game, but found no one there. "Well, rats, where did she go?"

Dried leaves danced where the old bat had stood. Maniacal laughter echoed in the wind. The old witch probably knew the game was up.

"How stupid do they think I am?" Perfect. Now she was talking to herself. Her sisters were going to drive her crazy. "Wishes, indeed."

"Were you granted a wish? Or are you the fairy?" A deep male voice, filled with laughter, echoed up the stone steps.

So much for peace and tranquility. Suddenly the Fairy Steps were the most popular place in Beetham.

With a huff, Anne leaned over the edge of the steps. Her mouth fell open. At the foot of the steps, seated on a large black horse, was the most handsome man she'd ever seen. Gorgeous, dark wavy hair curled around his high collar. Blue eyes danced with laughter. A navy blue coat had been tailored just right to fit his broad shoulders. Tight-fitting buckskin breeches outlined muscular legs. Thank you, Providence, for buckskins, thought Anne.

She swallowed to ease the dryness in her throat. "Excuse me, sir, did you pass an old lady on your way up the path?"

He smiled and those crinkles appeared around his blue-blue eyes. Anne fought the urge to swoon. Seriously? No man made her swoon. She looked down at his face again and fought the urge to gape.

An Unexpected WishWhere stories live. Discover now