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Welcome to the second installment to the free serialized paranormal novella A Happily Ever After of Her Own! I’ve received some incredible feedback, and so many people have signed up for newsletter since last Monday. Thank you for your support!
If you’re new to the story, please go to A Happily Ever After of Her Own: I. In Which Our Heroine Is Charged to read the first chapter before reading further.
…until the Fairy Tale Police arrest her while she is in Beauty and the Beast. They offer her a deal: Find Beauty, who left the story when Melinda trespassed into it, or be charged with the ultimate crime — Fairy Tale Killer. If that’s not bad enough the Beast tags along in search of his true love, and Melinda starts falling for the fairy tale prince. She must choose between doing the right thing and having her own happily ever after.
Warning: This title contains the following: Fairy Godmother, the Wicked Witch, dysfunctional fairy tale families, ax-wielding executioners and a happily ever after (or two).
II. In Which Our Heroine Gets an Unwelcome Companion
“I object,” the Beast said in his rumbling voice. A fierce scowl hung over his face like thunderclouds over a cliff. “That woman shouldn’t be allowed to return to her world.”
Fairy Godmother frowned prettily. “Why so ever not?”
“If she goes alone, she has every reason to run away and never return.”
The two men nodded.
“Perhaps we can have her swear a vow,” Fairy Godmother said.
“Her words mean nothing,” the Beast growled. “She is not of this world. She faces no dire consequences for forsaking her vows.”
“Hey!” Melinda said. How dare he slander her in front of the Fairy Godmother! “I keep my promises! I’m not a liar.”
“Of course not, Miss Lightfoot. You are merely a trespasser, a killer, a terrorist and a vandal,” the prosecutor said blandly, making her choke with outrage. “Fairy Godmother, His Highness is correct. We cannot trust her. We must send someone to ensure she fulfills her duties.”
Fairy Godmother pursed her lips. “Who volunteers to accompany her then?”
The judge and the prosecutor exchanged glances. The Beast jerked a thumb at his chest. “I do.”
“Your Highness,” the prosecutor said in a stage whisper. “Are you sure?”
Before the Beast could answer, Melinda shook her head. “No, not him.” Everyone’s gaze turned to her. “I can’t go around in my world with some…werelion. It’s going to draw too much attention. People will catch him and put in a cage or something.”
“A cage? On what charge?” The judge frowned. “Do you not have equal rights for all in your world?”
He’s got some nerve talking about equal rights, after trampling all over mine. “For all humans.” Melinda looked at the Beast. “He’s not.”
“This wretched curse doesn’t make me non-human!”
“I’m sorry,” she said, using her reasonable voice again, “but you just don’t look human. I won’t be able to find Beauty and the Wicked Witch if you come with me.”
Fairy Godmother nodded. “She’s right.”
The Beast’s massive shoulders were hunched in frustration, and Melinda felt guilty again. This was the second time she’d caused him unhappiness, but she couldn’t let him come with her. He would be an obstacle. But she could make it up to him by finding Beauty as soon as possible.
The Beast looked at Fairy Godmother grimly. “May we talk privately for a moment?”
“Of course.” She turned to the remaining three in the room. “Excuse us.”
*** *** ***
They went into the soundproof antechamber next to the meeting room. It was sparsely furnished, with walls covered by thick and dreadfully dull books, but the high glass ceiling made the place seem airy. Fairy Godmother sat in one of the chairs at a small circular table, and Edward shut the door and faced her. “Mother, why are you opposing me?”
“Was I, dear? I didn’t realize.”
He prayed for patience. Mother could be so frustratingly dense at times. He was sure it was intentional…and people wondered why he had a temper. “Have I ever asked you for a favor?”
She frowned. “Not that I can recall.”
“That’s right. Not when I was cursed—”
“Well, the curse. Perhaps you shouldn’t have called her Auntie Beet.”
“It was the truth! And I was only nine!”
“Of course, dear.” Fairy Godmother made a vague gesture. “Do go on.”
“Stop humoring me. Why are you on her side? It’s not as if you like her.”
“She is still my sister, and she is occasionally capable of being pleasant.”
“As pleasant as Charming,” he muttered.
She beamed. “Yes! Such a delightful boy.”
“You mean annoying.”
Fairy Godmother sighed. “Do get to the point, dear.”
“Of course. The point. The point, as you say, is that I have never asked you for favors, not even when Beauty’s evil sisters sent murdering townspeople my way. I endured all the hardships, all the obstacles, in order to earn her love.”
“So you did. Quite admirable.”
“Thank you.” At least his mother was somewhat reasonable — for a woman — unlike his witchy aunt. “But surely you realize the current situation is untenable. This Lightfoot trespasser is untrustworthy, and I cannot put my fate in her hands. Without Beauty I can never regain my human form, and Aunt will triumph.”
“I understand, but Miss Lightfoot has a valid objection. Her world is not like ours. It has lost much of its magic. Most people there don’t even believe that happy endings are possible.”
Edward stiffened with shock. “Blasphemy! How can people not believe in happy endings?”
“Well, that would be your aunt’s influence.” She sighed. “This is why I cannot risk a failure. If she wins, the fairy tales will be no more, and all the happily-ever-afters will vanish. Miss Lightfoot must succeed, and I’m afraid your presence will hinder her.”
“You are the most powerful fairy in our world. Surely there’s something you can do so that I can go.”
“The curse isn’t something I can undo,” she said primly. “You know what’s in the Seventeenth Neverland Magical Accord as well as I do.”
He wanted to hit something. Better yet, someone. Even better yet, his aunt. “I’ll sacrifice anything to go. Please.”
The silence stretched. Edward didn’t dare say a word, lest he prejudice his mother against his cause.
Finally she said, “Are you sure?” She held up a finger. “Once done, it cannot be undone, you know.”
He nodded. He had to break free from the curse. He couldn’t let his aunt win. And he certainly wasn’t going to allow the clumsy Lightfoot to destroy his only chance.
“Very well, then.” His mother rose. “We shall do it your way.”
*** *** ***
Melinda waited for Fairy Godmother and the Beast to return from their little timeout. The judge and prosecutor sat down and didn’t have the courtesy to offer her a seat. She didn’t bother asking; the chairs looked really uncomfortable. The men whispered furiously, hands held in front of their mouths like schoolgirls, and occasionally they would either nod or shake their heads so vigorously that the judge’s powered wig almost fell off.
The door opened, and Fairy Godmother and the Beast reentered the chamber. The men jumped to their feet.
“I have made my decision,” Fairy Godmother announced. “Miss Lightfoot, His Highness the Beast has the right to accompany you, as Beauty is his key to victory over the Evil Witch. Thus, I will allow him to go.”
Melinda groaned with dismay.
“However, your concern too is valid, and it will be in no one’s interests if his appearance is a burden. Therefore, I will put a spell on him to restore his true form for three days. Both of you must work together to bring Beauty and the Evil Witch back to us before the magic wears off.” Fairy Godmother turned to the Beast. “There is a caveat to my aid. You cannot allow Beauty to see your true form while you are in Miss Lightfoot’s world. If she does, the Evil Witch can change the conditions required to break her curse.”
The Beast’s voice grumbled, “I understand.”
“Further note that if you fail to bring Beauty and the Evil Witch back in three days, the division between our worlds will grow weak against the magic beacon the Evil Witch set when she left the Fairy Tale World. Once the beacon is firmly established, she will be able to flit in and out of your world, Miss Lightfoot, and will undoubtedly use her formidable magic to bring misery upon everyone. Nor will I be able to stop her, since the people of your world believe in tragic endings more readily than happy ones, and I will not be able to enter your world at will.”
This was getting worse and worse. Not only was she going to cause misery in the Fairy Tale World, she was going to bring the chief creator of all heartaches and troubles to hers. How was she going to live it down if the Evil Witch cursed her friends, coworkers, neighbors and students? Life was already difficult enough; people didn’t need more complications and curses.
And what about herself?
Melinda had always imagined that there was a Prince Charming out there for her, even though they hadn’t met yet. With the Evil Witch running around free, the probability of her own happily ever after was nil. The Evil Witch didn’t seem like the grateful type.
“Miss Lightfoot, I have also decided to give you a bit of magical help in your quest.” Fairy Godmother gestured at Melinda’s watch, and stardust shimmered briefly across the gap. “Your time device will tell you where the Evil Witch is so long as the sun is up. The Evil Witch is exceptionally powerful in your world, and I’m afraid my magic simply isn’t strong enough to help you during the night, when my influence is at its weakest. When you’re ready to return with His Highness the Beast, Beauty and the Evil Witch, make sure to be in the same room with them. Then tap the time device three times and say ‘Happily ever after’. Understood?”
“Now, Miss Lightfoot, you must promise to bring Beauty and the Evil Witch to our world within three days.”
Melinda mounted a stand next to the prosecutor and raised her hand. “I swear to bring Beauty and the Evil Witch to your world within three days.”
“Very well.” Fairy Godmother nodded. “I wish you luck.”
All the air left Melinda’s lungs, suffocating her, and darkness swarm over her vision. She felt her legs crumble beneath her.
The last thing Melinda saw was Fairy Godmother’s gentle smile as everything went black.
*** *** ***
Melinda gasped and blinked, trying to focus on a white blankness far from her. After a moment she realized the whiteness was actually a ceiling. The bedside lamps glowed soft gold, and she was…she felt the soft sheets under her palms and noticed the half-read Beauty and the Beast storybook lying face-down on the bedside table. The clock said 10:00 p.m. Right about the time she’d fallen asleep and entered the fairy tale. Oh thank God! She was finally awake from her nightmare! No more strange critters calling her Fairy Tale Killer. No more twitchy porcupines trying to intimidate her with swagger sticks. And no more barren cell without lights or running water.
“What a creepy dream,” she muttered.
“That was no dream, Clumsyfoot!”
She yelped and jackknifed up at the low baritone voice. Despite its aggrieved tone, it held a delicious chocolate heat that cut through her surprise and sent shivers all the way down to her toes. She glanced up and saw the most arresting man she’d ever beheld. He was tall, at least six-foot-six, and a wild mane of hair cascaded down his back like golden silk. A simple pale green shirt hung from his massive shoulders, intensifying the emerald of his eyes. Too bad he sported a nasty I-would-kill-you-if-I-could scowl. Otherwise he could’ve been the exact image of the Prince Charming she’d held in her mind for so long.
“Who are you?” she squeaked.
“Doesn’t anybody remember my real name?” His eyes glowed with annoyance. “The Beast. You already forgot about your vow to Fairy Godmother, didn’t you?” When she stared at him mutely, he struck his open palm with a fist. “I knew it!”
She rubbed her eyes and looked again. He didn’t disappear. She was glad she wasn’t standing up, because her knees would probably have given way. “It wasn’t a dream?”
“Oh no.” He bared his straight white teeth in something that might’ve passed for a smile if he’d actually tried to look friendly. “This is very real, and I’m not going anywhere until you help me find Beauty and my dear aunt.”
“Didn’t you know? The Evil Witch is my aunt.”
“No wonder you’re so charming.”
Edward made a face. “Good Lord no. Don’t confuse me with Charming.”
“He’s my annoying twin.”
A mild headache began knocking inside Melinda’s temples. “Identical?”
“Technically. But of course I’m the more handsome.”
It was just her luck. All the good-looking men she met were either married, gay or in touch with their inner Narcissus. She wanted to bang her head into her pillows — never against the wall because it would hurt too much. “What a huge mistake.”
“Indeed. You should’ve stayed in your world, so my aunt couldn’t have escaped. Your inconsiderate and foolhardy actions have caused all of us many problems.”
“Not that.” She glared at him. “I should never have complained about your looks. Then you would’ve stayed a Beast.”
The third chapter is coming on Monday October 19. Please note that it is only available to my newsletter subscriber. If you’d like to know what happens to Melinda and the Beast, please sign up by using the form below or going to the subscribe page. It’s absolutely free and you can unsubscribe at any time. Thanks!
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