Beauty and the Beast (Timeless Fairy Tales #1)
Once Upon a Time
The servants of Chanceux Chateau would have screamed if they could when the stain glass skylight in the little hall shattered and a young woman fell through the ceiling with the broken glass. She dropped like a twisting cat and landed with an ominous crack.
A footman and one of the grooms reached her first. She was passably pretty but plain, wearing the muted colors of a villager. Her breathing was ragged and her face was tight with pain. “NO!” she screamed when the groom tried to roll her on her side.
The footman and groom leaped backwards. They thought for sure she was unconscious, but the young lady opened and rolled her eyes. She didn’t cry, but she clenched her cloak close to her body with shaking hands.
The groom inched back to her side and extended a cautious hand to her skirt, intending to remove bits of glass that were digging into the cloth.
“Don’t,” the young lady whispered. “My leg—,” she broke off, hissing in pain.
The groom turned helplessly to the footman, who was already signaling a chamber maid to fetch the staff physician.
Hesitantly, the groom crouched at the girl’s side and nudged glass away from her.
“What happened?” a voice growled.
The footman lunged to his feet and hurried to stand in front of the chateau’s lord, gesturing at the broken skylight—where night lurked like a pool of black ink—and then to the fallen girl.
The groom stood as well and bowed to the lord, but he sank back into a crouch when the lord dismissed him.
The groom carefully scooted around the girl’s body, brushing glass away as her breathing came in pained but steady gasps.
“Duval has been called for? Good, he may see to her and send her on her way,” the lord said, his voice the lowest of baritones.
The footman hesitated and pointed to the skylight and a hall door before lifting his hands in a plea.
“I do not care if it is late. She shouldn’t have been skulking around the castle,” the lord said.
The groom stood and waited until he had his lord’s attention before he gestured at the intruder’s leg.
“Fine. Put her in a bedroom for tonight. She leaves at dawn.”
The groom bowed and happily returned to brushing glass away from the intruder/guest. He accidentally nudged her leg when he tried to extract a large shard of red glass from under her cloak.
The girl screamed. It was an utterance of mindless pain that seemed to be squeezed from her heart. “My leg,” she groaned, clenching her eyes shut and finally throwing her arms wide.
The chateau lord turned to the footman. “Shut her up and move her. Immediately!”
The groom almost fell as he tore across the hall to the steward and castle lord like a frightened colt. He frantically slapped his arm before pointing to the girl.
The castle lord sniffed the air, but he need not bother. Even in the dim torchlight he could see the blood spilling from lacerations on the girl’s arms. He growled and stalked to the injured intruder, entering the ring of torchlight.
The girl opened her eyes when she heard him draw close. When she saw him her mouth opened, but nothing came out. Her terror was a sharp scent in the air, and her whole body trembled.
The chateau lord was a beast. He had the head of a black cat. His nose was flat and his teeth were too big for his mouth and poked out of his lips. He had pads on his fingers and palms like a dog, and his finger nails were more like claws—which extended as the frightened girl shivered.
He was broad shouldered like a massive dog, and his legs were like the hind legs of a cat. Instead of bending forward on knees his legs curved back and gave him a swaying gate.
He was covered in black fur, but the worst of it was his eyes. His eyes were amber and the pupils were slitted like a mindless beast.
The chateau lord ignored the reaction and picked her up like she weighed no more than a corn husk.
Sound finally ripped through the girl’s terror. She howled as the lord carried her—jostling her leg. Her eyes rolled back and she fell silent when she fainted.
The chateau lord glanced up at the hole punched through his ceiling. “She fell from there? It’s a surprise she’s alive,” he said as he left the little hall, his nails clicking on the floor as his servants scurried around him like fleas.
Once upon a time there was a handsome prince who was cursed by an evil witch.
Once upon a time there was an illegitimate prince—the son of the King—who was sentenced to insanity by a wicked witch and was rescued by the curse of a beautiful enchantress.
The fairy tale was a stark reality for those who were connected to the crown of Loire. To everyone else it was a fable, a tale told to teach children morals. Elle had fallen straight into the fairy tale.