I'm doing a bit of trickery here, as you probably are aware already that this post was not posted on the proper day. I'm going to try and trick the date/time box into helping me out, because I made a goal for the month to meet all my blogging obligations.
So, because today (not really today, Wednesday) is my release day for the third book in my Naughtily Ever After series. BEAST is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a few twists to make it my own. So, here's a sneak peek at BEAST. And if you leave a comment telling me what your favorite fairytale is, and why you like it so much, you could be a lucky winner, because I'm giving away one copy of BEAST right here! I'll pick the winner via random number generator and announce who won next Wednesday!
Onto the sneaky peeky of BEAST!
Accused of treason by his own father, Prince Philipe of Chevudon finds his flight to safety cut short by an arrow to the shoulder. There is only one person to whom he can turn for help, the only woman he ever loved, the only person he ever truly betrayed…
Following the destruction of her home and family in a fire that left her horribly disfigured, Johanna has lived a life of hardship and pain. When her lost love comes to her, wounded and on the run from his father’s guard, she cannot turn him away. But she cannot forgive him either.
Can a prince who was once a beast earn back the love he cast aside?
A hot bath, a good meal, and a vigorous whore were all Philipe longed for, in that order, as his horse pounded down the frozen road. Knowing that such luxuries were unlikely didn’t stop him from wanting them. He’d been riding hard for three days, his father’s men at his heels like dogs on a fox.
“We’re but a mile from Clatterbuck,” Jessop, Philipe’s companion, once captain of his palace guard, called to him over the thunder of hooves. He was breathless from the ride, and red-faced, and Philipe knew that he might as well have been staring into a mirror. An exhausted, unshaven mirror.
“If Lord Fueil has not forsaken us, I may make it out of the kingdom alive.” He gripped the reins tighter in his swollen fingers, the cold leather of his gloves creaking.
It was a strange position he found himself in, that of the fugitive crown prince. His father, once Albart the Wise, King of Chevudon, had become Albart the suspicious, Albart the confused. Albart the paranoid and vindictive, who’d driven his own son from the palace with allegations of treason.
Philipe plotted the route in his mind. Shelter for the night behind the walls of Fueil’s fortress, then to the border and beyond, where his father’s men could not seek him. But as they rode on, his own suspicions deepened. The hovels on the outskirts of Fueil’s land showed no signs of life. Further into the village, not a chimney smoked nor a babe cried.
“It’s deserted,” Philipe said, scanning the low rooftops. His exhausted horse nickered and stepped restlessly.
“I don’t like this, Your Highness.” Jessop looked over his shoulder. “I think we may already be trapped.”
He’d barely finished his sentence before a thump widened his eyes and he fell from the saddle, an arrow protruding from his chest. Philipe ducked and tugged the reins, bringing his horse around to shield the fallen man. For but a moment, he considered trying to save Jessop. Another arrow sliced through the air, striking his horse in the neck. The animal reared back, spilling Philipe to the ground. He caught the reins of Jessop’s horse. The man lay on the ground, unmoving, as the hooves of Philipe’s wounded, maddened horse struck the mud around him. Jessop was dead, that much was clear, and Philipe did not intend to waste such a noble man’s death. He put his heels to Jessop’s horse, freeing the animal to carry him wherever it may, so long as it was out of this place.
Fueil, you bastard! When this was finished, when Philipe returned to his kingdom to inherit his throne, he would have the traitorous lord’s head on a pike.
Something struck him in the shoulder. A stone? He was nearly unhorsed, but righted himself in the saddle, arm aching. Only when he tried to lift it did he feel the sharp, shattering pain of splintered muscle and bone. The shaft of an arrow protruded from his shoulder, and hot blood wet his arm inside his sleeve. He cursed and reached for his sword, but the pain of the motion made him scream as the world blackened, only for an instant. He fought to clear his head. If he were to fall now, it would be over. He would wake in father’s dungeons, awaiting execution, or perhaps he would not wake at all.
Snow drifted through the treetops as riders pursued him, back the way he’d come, farther from the border that would be his safety. In his mind, he conjured a map of his father’s kingdom. It was thirty leagues to the border, and his horse was good for a few miles, at most. If he could have burned Fueil’s lands with the fire of his rage, he would have.
Fire. The word branded the map in his head with another, wholly unpleasant option. To the northeast lay Hazelhurn. The one place in the entire kingdom he might trade for the underworld. But it wasn’t death that frightened him so. He had to live, so that his father’s throne would be inherited by someone with reason and sanity, not some power-mad courtier who would be worse than the feeble-minded old man.
He would go to Hazelhurn, and the gods help him. But first, he had to lose the men following him. Plunging his horse headlong into the trees, he kept low and prayed that the lord of Hazelhurn would be far kinder to him than he deserved.