Beauty and the Beast
Though the beast held Belle a prisoner, the image of another enflamed her passion. Haldon had but one way to break the vile curse enslaving him: He must capture her heart.
First Published: 02/2004
Length: Short Story
Word Count: 16,061
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Available formats: PDF, RTF, Epub, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc)
© Cover Art by Alex DeShanks 2011
New Concepts Publishing
Lake Park, GA 31636
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and places are of the author's imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events is merely coincidence.
"The storm seems to be gathering strength." Isabelle Dunbar looked out of the coach window as the wind blasted a puff of snowflakes against the glass. The white fluff almost obliterated the reflection of her fair hair, pale face, and fatigue-shadowed blue eyes.
"I'll be happy when we get home." Morag, Belle's sister, brushed back a wispy brown curl from her lovely face then burrowed her gloved hands deeply within her red velvet muff.
"So will I." Belle's other pretty brown-haired sister, Ailsa, shivered and put her small feet closer to the foot warmer. "Father was mad to send us out on such a journey this time of year."
Belle directed her gaze at her sisters. "He had no choice. He is ill, and this trip would have killed him. You know he had to get those documents and the fee, insuring his ship and cargo, to his barrister in Aberdeen. Without them, he could lose his whole fortune."
"Well, he should have sent just you, Belle. You're the one with business sense," Morag replied.
"Right!" Ailsa nodded. "We've no aptitude for commerce."
Belle sighed. "Perhaps father hoped the two of you would keep me company and act as chaperones. It's unseemly for me to be traveling alone."
"Then he should have sent Aunt Emma with you."
"The poor woman is eighty years old," Belle protested.
Tired of their conversation, Belle turned her attention to the storm. Dusk had cast gray shadows over the high drifts, and the howling wind scoured over the snow, picking it up and mixing it with the flakes tumbling furiously from the sky.
"I certainly hope we leave Lord Glen Dubh's land before he discovers that we've trespassed," Morag remarked, a tremor in her voice.
Belle sighed. "As I explained before, we have cut five miles from our journey by taking the road through his estate. Furthermore, how could he know that we've encroached on his property? Surely, his men-at-arms will not be patrolling the area in this weather."
Morag shook her head. "I don't know, but they say that he has made a pact with the devil and possesses strange powers. The crofters hereabout swear that he knows things without ever having to venture beyond the walls of his castle."
"You have to admit, Belle, this place looks forbidding," Ailsa added.
Glen Dubh meant black valley. The way the hills rose up and the pines covered them, shade likely shrouded the narrow glen in gloom the year round. In the distance, the great crenellated towers and high curtain wall of Glen Dubh Castle were barely discernible beyond the thick curtain of falling snow.
"Perhaps evil spirits are lurking about this place, and Lord Glen Dubh is conspiring with them," Ailsa speculated.
"Stuff and nonsense!" Exasperated, Isabelle blew out a breath. "He is probably sitting by a warm fire, sipping a dram of whisky."
"I heard he is so terribly ugly and misshapen that he looks like a beast." Morag grimaced and shuddered.
"Then he is to be pitied, not feared," Belle ventured.
"Well, I will still be glad when we cross that stone bridge," Ailsa added. "Then we'll have only one mile to go before we reach that comfortable inn. I'd like a nice spit-roasted grouse for supper and a good night's sleep in a feather bed."
"So would I," Morag agreed. "But I'd like Angus to share the bed."
Belle's eyes widened as Ailsa giggled.
"Don't pretend you're so shocked, Belle." Morag shot her a look of contempt. "Angus and I are on the point of betrothal, and this is Scotland. All we need do is to declare our intentions and get on with the business at hand. The union will be legal."
"But you haven't announced anything yet," Belle protested. "Suppose he doesn't marry you."
Morag dismissed Belle's words with a wave of her hand. "He slavers after what I have to give him. Furthermore, it may be months before we are married. I do not intend to defer my pleasure or his for that long."
"You'd love it, Belle," Ailsa added with a languorous sigh.
Belle was no prude. She knew what transpired between men and women, yet she could barely believe what she was hearing. "You've lain with a man as well?"
"Of course!" Ailsa answered. "Padraig and I are close to a match as well, and I just love it when he touches me. It makes me all hot and tingly, and then when we couple, and he makes me come, I feel something that is just beyond description."
"It's as if your whole body just exploded with pleasure," Morag added.
"Just talking about it sets me afire," Ailsa revealed.
Much to her surprise, the conversation was having a titillating effect on Belle, but their recklessness frightened her. "But you're being irresponsible. You could conceive."
"Oh, you really are stupid," Morag sneered. "The men wear a French letter, you ninny!"
"A what?" Belle had to admit she was curious.
"Padraig puts a sheath over his member, so his seed won't penetrate me," Ailsa disclosed. "And if we do conceive, we shall just marry sooner."
"I still think it's best to wait until you speak your vows," Belle advised.
"Oh, Mistress Righteous." Ailsa looked at her in disgust. "Just wait until some man excites you. You'll be begging him to make love to you."
Belle doubted she would ever be that forward.
Furthermore, she felt guilty for entertaining thoughts of her own pleasure when her father lay ill. Unfortunately, she would have to wait another three days to see him and nurse him back to health.