Robert is a royal prince cursed into his current predicament: remain a frog until he can get someone to kiss him...willingly. After years of searching, he finally finds a suitable royal princess.
She is but a humble maid...
Practical maid to the royal princess, Molly promises to help Robert in return for gold enough to fund her retirement. She doesn't want to waste her youth waiting on someone as capricious and shallow as the princess, instead of living her life.
But love knows no boundaries...
Unexpected problems unravel Robert's plan. The princess thinks frogs are disgusting, and his evil cousin shows up to steal both the princess and the throne that rightfully belongs to Robert. To compound matters, all he can think about is the quick-witted Molly.
But to undo the curse and inherit the throne, Robert must have a kiss from a royal princess and marry her.
What's a cursed prince to do?
Based on The Frog Prince.
Warning: This title contains the following: Fairy Godmother, a killer punt, porcupines of evil, the Wicked Witch's justice and a happily ever after (or two).
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Molly held a giant tri-colored parasol, balancing it carefully. Princess Serenia was particular about her complexion, and it somehow fell to Molly to keep it pristine.
If the princess was that concerned, she should've stayed indoors. But no. She wanted the exercise, a leisurely walk through the royal garden late every morning, to ensure that she remained fit and trim. How moving at a pace even the slowest snail could match improved her constitution, Molly did not know. But anything brisker might have made the princess sweat, and heaven forbid she should perspire like a common farmhand.
"Hold it straighter," Princess Serenia ordered. "I'll have your head if I get even a hint of freckles on my face."
Molly gritted her teeth, while pulling her lips away in what she hoped was a subservient smile. "Yes, Your Royal Highness." She adjusted the parasol. Her shoulders protested, the muscles burning.
"I know people don't always understand what it's like to be me...the princess, I mean."
"Naturally not, Your Royal Highness." Most people didn't have servants who waited on them, more food than they could possibly eat, or rooms full of silk and jewels. No, most people toiled away every day, from sunup to sundown, providing for themselves and the families that depended on them. "How could they possibly understand the hardship of being a royal princess?"
"Exactly! I wish..." Serenia frowned, looking down in a good imitation of thoughtfulness. It was something she did often, but Molly had never heard her utter a single insightful comment. "It's too bad Prince John couldn't join us."
"He is tired from his travels."
"Yes. He did say that." The princess's scowl deepened.
With an inward sigh, Molly made a mental note to slather more facial butter on Princess Serenia's forehead. Preventing wrinkles was Molly's responsibility as well.
They had walked a bit further when suddenly Princess Serenia let out a piercing scream.
Molly winced. "Your Royal Highness?"
"Oh my, my! Oh my!" Princess Serenia hopped about, the trio of pink ribbons in her hair bouncing madly.
Molly shuffled back and forth quickly to ensure the parasol kept the sun off the princess. "What's the matter?"
"A giant frog!" The princess grabbed Molly's wrist and moved over to a tree away from the spot. "Kill it. You must kill it!"
"Your Royal Highness, what about your complexion?" Molly was rather fond of her head.
"Well..." Princess Serenia sighed, as though making a deeply distressing decision that could change the course of history. "This tree will shade me, so I think you can go. Crush that vile frog dead, then throw it away. I don't want to see it ever again."
"Make sure not to leave any disgusting frog blood either. Or...body bits." Princess Serenia put a dainty hand to her mouth. "Oh, I do believe I'm going to throw up."
"Please don't." The last duty she needed was getting stains out of the princess's favorite pink dress. Keeping her garments pristine too was Molly's responsibility.
As a matter of fact, everything was Molly's responsibility. And she had to do all of it well to earn the meager wage Princess Serenia deigned to pay each month. Otherwise Molly would lose her small cottage outside the city, and her mother would starve.
Molly ran toward the spot where the princess had seen this "giant frog." She looked around, not seeing anything unusual. Had it run away already? If she were the frog, she would've fled the second the princess began screeching.
Something caught her peripheral vision. She turned and saw a green frog resting on a rock.
She sighed. Given the princess's hysteria, she'd thought it would be a large and ugly toad. But this frog was small enough to sit on her palm, and it wasn't even of the poisonous variety. Stomping on it would constitute nothing more than cruelty, and Molly didn't want to be mean to the frog. It wasn't the poor thing's fault Princess Serenia hated amphibians.
"You, help me!"
Molly blinked and looked around, wondering where the sudden and imperious male voice had come from. It was baritone, dark and rich. Definitely not anybody she was familiar with. She knew all the voices of the high lords and their sycophants. None of them had one this authoritative... or alluring.
She dropped her gaze. The frog hopped twice. She leaned closer and saw a small golden crown perched on its head.
Hmm. Most unusual.
A hazy outline formed around the frog. She narrowed her eyes and focused. Ah there. A man's shape. A handsome face with a sharply carved nose and cheekbones. A plump sensual mouth that softened the harshness of a strong jaw. And dark brown eyes that reminded her of a caramel and chocolate treat she'd once purloined from Princess Serenia's many coffers of candy. It had tasted exquisite.
But not as much as this frog's beautiful human face.
Molly straightened. Beautiful or not, he was clearly some cursed thing. Not her problem. The world was full of hexed men and women, and she wasn't the sort to undo spells. She was far too practical--and not pretty or highborn enough--for that kind of thing.
She picked him up and looked behind her. Princess Serenia was still under the tree, her face turned away.
Molly drew her arm back, aiming for the field beyond the large pine tree. The frog would fly over the wall and land on a soft grassy area on the other side. It might stun him, but it wouldn't kill him.
"No! No!" the frog yelled. "Help me and I'll reward you."
"That's what they all say," she muttered.
"I am not 'they,' whoever 'they' are. I am rich and will give you many gold coins."
She put her face close to his. "You're just a frog." One who apparently had been foolish enough to anger the Wicked Witch. Everyone knew not to cross Fairy Godmother's sister. "Where are you going to get these coins?"
"I am not just a frog." He made a face. The eyes were rather expressive. What had he done to earn the Wicked Witch's displeasure? "I am a royal prince, and I have the money and treasures commensurate with my rank."
She gazed at him skeptically. " 'Commensurate', is it? The highborn do like their flowery words. But pray be a bit more precise for this poor country girl."
"A hundred gold coins!"
Her mouth formed an O on its own volition. A hundred? This frog was desperate. She might have taken him up on it, if it weren't for what had happened earlier with Prince John.
"A thousand," she countered.
"If it's not even worth a thousand gold coins to you, it can't be that important." She pulled her arm back again.
"Very well! A thousand it is."
"And you're to pay me half now and the rest after one week. I'll not play your errand girl for life."
"That's outlandish! How do I know you aren't going to run away with my money without fulfilling your end of the deal?"
"Oh yes. Much easier to believe that a wretched frog will shower me with coins of gold."
"I am not just a frog! I'm a prince. Prince Robert of Lustrea."
She shrugged. "Never heard of you." Actually, she had guessed his rank from the crown he wore, but she didn't want him to know she could see through his curse. "Anyway, the princess pays me to do things for her, for example getting rid of frogs such as yourself. So why would I work for you without payment?"
"All right! I accept your terms."
He looked like he'd swallowed a particularly unsavory insect. "I swear it, on my honor."
Molly managed not to scoff at the idea of "honor" from the frog. She hadn't seen any evidence that such a thing existed among the royals, if he was indeed one. He probably didn't even know what the word meant. "Go to the basement of the northern wing. My room is the second one on the right from the main entrance. You can't miss it. I'll tie a green ribbon on the latch. And bring the money in five small bags."