First chapter sneak peek – full length novel available on Amazon
CURSE OF THE WOLF KING: A Beauty and the Beast Retelling
By Tessonja Odette
Just breathe. They can’t hurt me from here. No one can.
I release a heavy sigh, my breath fogging the window glass and obscuring my view of the enormous snowflakes that fall on the other side, floating from the vast white sky to the streets below. I press my forefinger to the fogged glass, tracing a circle, then several lines radiating out from its circumference. By the time I draw my last line, the image fades, taking with it my temporary sun.
I let out another sigh, my brow pulling into a scowl. I despise snow. Almost as much as this town.
I squint beyond the snowflakes to the bustling streets outside my home. A row of townhouses identical to mine line the opposite street. One family all but spills from their doorway in their haste to get outside, gathering their composure when they reach the cobblestone street. The father straightens his cravat, tips his hat, and mouths what I can only imagine are kind greetings to passing neighbors, who in turn stop to chat. Their words are too distant for me to hear from inside my townhouse’s parlor, but the delighted squeals of the children are loud enough to reach me. A boy and girl grin up at the sky as they bounce up and down on the balls of their feet, faces alight at the sight of snow. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if the falling flakes of freezing doom perhaps aren’t the worst after all. However, all mirth from both myself and the children is stripped away when the mother swats at them, prodding her progeny into silence and well-behaved postures before contriving exaggerated smiles for her neighbors’ sake.
“Why, of course, Mrs. Aston,” I say under my breath, tone mocking, “you most certainly should strip the joy from your happy children while you can. Wouldn’t want their enthusiasm for life’s early pleasures to stain your well-kept reputation.”
I shake my head and turn away from the window with a huff. Mrs. Aston, like everyone else in the town of Vernon, is yet another simple-minded, judgmental prude. I can’t believe I was ever so naive to think this place would be a fresh start. A place where I could escape the rigid structures of human society and just be…me.
But no. There’s no room for me, not when society has already decided who and what I should be. A daughter. A woman. A wife-in-training. Quiet. Demure. Chaste.
One would think moving to an isle ruled by the fae—magical creatures I once thought could never belong outside mythical stories—would provide a fresh perspective on social norms. When Father announced he was moving me and my youngest sister from Bretton to Faerwyvae, and to the Winter Court of all places, I felt a mix of emotions. Terror. Shock. Relief. And, yes, most pathetic of all, hope. I should have known better. For it turns out, the human towns in Faerwyvae are just as uptight as the cities in Bretton.
If only I could go home. To my real home. Not here. Not even Bretton, but to the home of my childhood where the sun shone year-round, browning my skin as I played outdoors with my sisters, not a care in the world to dampen our spirits. That was joy. That was happiness. That was when our family was whole, and Mother was still…
My shoulders stiffen. Shaking the ruminations from my mind, I stride to the fireplace at the opposite end of the parlor. I cross my arms and pop my hip to the side as I glower at the meager flames. An unladylike countenance, I’m sure, but considering I’m alone in my family’s parlor, I really couldn’t give a damn.
I suppress a shudder, wishing the heat of the fireplace could more adequately warm the room. How is it that I live in a land filled with magic, and yet we’re still plagued by the same unreliable hearths I left behind? The Winter Court, more than any other court in Faerwyvae, should make proper heat a priority for its residents. Shouldn’t it?
I grit my teeth, releasing a grumble of muttered curses.
Saints Above, why am I so on edge today?
As if in answer, my gaze is drawn to the tea table in front of the couch, where a well-worn book rests, taunting me.
Oh, that’s right. Because I’m out of reading material. Again.
I move to the couch, retrieving the shawl draped over one of the pillows and wrap it around my shoulders. I pick up my book and settle into the cushions, smoothing the folds of my blue satin skirt close to my legs, wishing I’d worn wool hose today instead of silk stockings. Then I pull the cord of the tall floor lamp next to me, igniting a warm, subtle glow that lights my pages.
We may not have leading-edge technology for heating, but at least we have electricity for light—or a form of it, I should say. Unlike Bretton, where light is generated by traditional means, here it comes from strange fae magic, traveling along lay lines, or some such.
I flip past the title page of my book, which reads The Governess and the Rake, to page one. The familiar words set my nerves at ease as I begin to read. But as I make it to page three, I find my mind beginning to wander. As much as I love my book, I’ve already read it three times. I want something new. Need something new.
I slam the cover shut and return it to the table. Bringing my thumbnail between my teeth, I make my way back to the window to look out at the streets that have grown even busier in my short absence from my post.
My heart races as the bodies that swarm the streets grow denser, the chatter of excited pedestrians compounding with horse hooves, carriage wheels, and the rare automobile until it becomes an audible roar of sound.
I’m transported to a similar street in recent memory, one crowded with sneers and whispers. Eyes that burn with hate and scorn. All directed at me, as barbed as if they were lashes upon my flesh.
I bite the inside of my cheek, which helps me recover my bearings.
Just breathe. This is here. This is now.
Damn it all to hell, I really need a new book. Otherwise, my mind will be the death of me. But new books mean leaving this room. Walking in the saintsforsaken snow…amongst all those people.
I swallow hard.
We’ve been living in Vernon for three weeks now. The first week was almost a respite. Being a newly opened resort town near the mountains of the Winter Court, Vernon welcomed us as one of the first families to take up residence. The shops were new and stocked to the brim with untouched goods, which thankfully included a bookshop. That became my immediate haven, and I confess, I spent my weekly allowance during my first trip there. The second week brought more new families settling into the empty homes, including the nosy Mrs. Aston. Still, I continued to escape into my books and replenish my wares as soon as one story was finished. The start of this week, however, brought a flood of residents, some permanent, others visitors. All bursting with anticipation for what is considered a momentous event—the start of the Winter Court’s social season.
I once was excited by social seasons, but now I dread them. Dread with a capital D and a string of colorful curses. The kind a lady should never say. Shit. Damn. Hell.
I really, really need a new book.
Clenching my fingers into fists, I stare out at the streets one more time and give myself to the count of five to feel afraid.
The bookshop is just a few blocks away.
No one here knows my past.
They don’t know me at all.
And if I have anything to do about it, no one ever will.
With a deep inhale, I straighten my posture, swallowing my fear. Then I suck in my stomach, aided by my tight-laced corset, and throw back my shoulders. I pat my black tresses, ensuring every wavy strand is secured in its fashionable twist at the nape of my neck. Lifting my chin, I press my lips into a haughty smile, the first ingredient that makes up the mask I must wear. The persona I present to the world. The kind that keeps me strong. Confident. Impervious to pain.
A lie, yes.
But one that I, Gemma Bellefleur, wear so well.
Thank you for reading the first chapter of Curse of the Wolf King! The rest of the story will be released on April 7th. You can find it here on Amazon.***
©Copyright 2021 by Tessonja Odette. This work may not be reproduced or redistributed in any way.
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