The Dangers of Smooching Frogs: Read “It’s in Her Kiss” in the After the Happily Ever After Anthology

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I’ve never liked “The Frog Prince.”

A spoiled princess becomes indebted to a frog after he retrieves her golden ball from a well. Though she promises the amphibian she will be his companion, the princess attempts to ditch the croaker at the first opportunity. When the frog shows up at the palace and asks to be let in, the princess explains the situation to her father, the king, and he forces her to make good on her promise. If the princess falters and doesn’t give the frog what he wants, he threatens to tell the king. In the original version from the Grimm Brothers, the princess is so disgusted by her fate, she throws the frog against a wall. Only then does he turn into a prince (which is a game changer), and they suddenly rush into marriage and live happily ever after. The end.

Can you say dysfunctional? Why should the princess receive a happy ending? And what the heck is up with that psychology? Why does the frog still choose her? Is he that much of a gold digging opportunist?

After all the entitlement and manipulation, the princess and the frog simply shrug it off and choose each other, which was never a satisfying conclusion for me.

When I learned Transmundane Press was putting together the After the Happily Ever After anthology, I knew it was my chance to retell a fairy tale that I’d always found troubling. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, my story isn’t all rainbows and happy endings, because let’s face it, fairy tales were meant to be didactic stories that youngsters could learn from. Some horrific shit goes down in fairy tales. But “It’s in Her Kiss” dives headlong into the psychology of the relationship between the frog and the princess. Of course, I’ve put a new spin on the classic take, too. 

“It’s in Her Kiss” is at once a re-imagination of a classic story, a satirical look at modern romantic relationships, and proof that happily ever after isn’t always what it seems.

It’s in Her Kiss

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Delilah has developed a fetish of the human-who-was-once-an-amphibian variety. Her predilection has progressed into a full-fledged addiction as three or four times a week, the door to our flat bursts open and a new prime specimen drips pond water onto the Ikea rug in the foyer.

Delilah wears a proud smile and clings to their arms, bright with infatuation, gleaming with accomplishment. After all, her rose-pink lips elicited their transformations. And they are all hers, rescued from the muck and ever-grateful to their savior.

Each specimen is distinctly different, but they all are ambitiously handsome. Last week, Delilah’s first catch was Italian. Olive skin, dark, emotional eyes, clothing that only a European can get away with wearing. He was young, so he was probably an exchange student. Her second catch looked like a lumberjack, a man with a full beard, bulging muscles, and enough freckles to create a connect-the-dots coloring book. I half-expected him to produce an axe to cut the lasagna they shared that evening. The third was an older Russian gentleman who moved with innate bravado and had the saddest blue eyes. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but Delilah didn’t care. She took him to bed anyway, as she does with all of them.

The next morning, she kisses them goodbye. When they’ve reassumed their froggy countenances, she affixes their legs with a little gold band. It helps her to determine which frogs she’s already romanced. Then, out the door and back to the park they go, as if nothing ever happened.

I’ve lost track of the number of suitors that have come through our door and dampened our rug. Does Delilah know? Does she keep track? Does she delight in her growing number of conquests?

And if she does, is my name at the top of the list? Does she fondly remember me as her first? Or does her lack of lust and passion for me exclude me completely from the ranks?

#

I’d resigned myself to an amphibian lifestyle the morning I met Delilah. I’d been a frog for nearly a year, the result of a tumultuous breakup and a vindictive ex-girlfriend who decided to teach me a lesson. When she threw me into the lake, a note full of expletives, blaming, and mentions of voodoo followed me.

At first, I thought someone would figure it out. My parents ordered a police investigation, but the ensuing search proved fruitless. You don’t leave a trace when you recede into a local pond. No cell phone records. No credit card transactions. People say you were completely normal the last time they saw you. And, of course, the woman responsible for the hex isn’t going to have a change of heart. Especially when you cheated on her—not one of my finest moments.

As the missing person posters shriveled on lampposts around town and were eventually replaced with the face of some other unlucky guy, I decided I’d make the most of my new life. After all, I’d always enjoyed the outdoors, I’d become an exceptional swimmer, and while I missed a choice cut of sirloin from time to time, I developed a taste for bugs.

While gathering breakfast one morning at the community park, a net dropped over me. I panicked. I jumped; I kicked; I squirmed, but then my little heart raced far too fast, and I grew heavy with exhaustion. I looked up, expecting to see a mean-spirited little boy, the kind that would subject me to light filtered through a magnifying glass.

Through the mesh, a pair of feminine brown eyes gazed down at me. A girlish grin lit up my captor’s face. And wouldn’t you know it, it was nice to receive a smile for once.

I didn’t struggle as Delilah scooped me into her palms and said, “Gotcha.”

#

The internet is a crock of shit. I can find support groups and rehabilitation programs and intervention specialists for some crazy things—people who eat the ashes of their loved ones, Satanic cultists, teenagers who sniff glue to get high—but I can’t find anything for sex addicts that use magic to ensnare, manipulate, and then re-enchant their lovers. The lack of resources is maddening.

I’ve done some medical research, too, trying to discern if Delilah has some kind of health condition that gives her lips transformative powers. Could this be genetic? Some insane recessive gene? But I’ve found nothing.

I’ve reached out to local government to express my concern in the recent surplus of frogs in our neighborhood. A state representative emailed me back saying that while he understood my annoyance, the increase in amphibian life in nearby ponds has proved ecologically beneficial. A rare species of fish, recently deemed on the cusp of extinction, now flourishes in ponds and lakes around town.

Since my ex mentioned voodoo in her departure letter, I’ve been trying to track down dark magic shops in the area, but my searches are spotty and uninformative. Apparently, none of these niche businesses are too concerned with having a web presence. I’m sure they rely on word-of-mouth marketing to keep them in business. “That son of a bitch cheated on you? Well, there’s this place you can go to get a potion that’ll turn him into a dog. Literally.”

My search is frustrating, but I understand how widespread, traditional marketing would pose a safety concern. A plague of frogs would likely descend upon the shop, if only the poor schmucks knew where it was.

***

To read the rest of “It’s in Her Kiss” and other fractured fairy tales, purchase your paperback copy of After the Happily Ever After on Amazon.

For fairy tale afficianodos, Transmundane Press is also offering a limited edition hardcover printing, signed by the editors, Anthony S. Buosi and Alisha Costanzo, which you can purchase HERE.

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Rapunzel Gets a Happily-Never-After Ending in “Now You See Me”

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My mother, fair-skinned and wraithlike, crying openly into my father’s wounds is my most vivid and treasured childhood memory. As my twin brother and I watched, she cradled his head in her lap and sobbed as he stared, unblinking, past the fine curve of her cheek and into a churning grey sky. He writhed in response to her gentle touch, seemingly in confusion and pain. My father’s skin was a labyrinth of scratches and grooves, his injuries the result of stumbling blindly through miles and miles of unforgiving forest terrain. His blood blossomed like poppies on my mother’s blue dress, flowers that surged and flourished at a startling pace. Tears accumulated across the sharp relief of my mother’s chin and dripped down onto my father like rain.

I was heartbroken that this was how I was to meet my father after eight years of hearing stories about him. He was supposed to be gallant and handsome, not ruined and swooning and gasping for breath.

“He’s going to die,” I whispered into the stormy air.

But then my father’s random, floundering movements ceased. He became still, oh so still. The only action which indicated he was still alive was a wild fluttering of his eyelids. After a moment, he reached up and caressed my mother’s cheek with an assuredness and intention not possible for someone who’d been newly blinded. His gaze locked with my mother’s, and he smiled.

He struggled to speak, but at first, all that poured forth were meaningless gurgles. And then, “I can see you. I can see you. I can see you…”

My mother cried anew, but from her eyes poured happy tears, salt bred of love and renewal. Her fresh round of weeping became a magical anointment. My father’s wounds closed up like riverbeds reduced to dry ravines by scorching sun. My mother’s hair, shorn and ruddy, grew and grew until it circled them twice. Her tresses shone like gold, even in the dim light of the oncoming storm. My father’s blood disappeared, evaporated into the mist—or perhaps it found its way back into his body as color returned to his cheeks.

As my parents gazed at each other, it was as if they were seeing each other for the very first time. I saw their shared happiness weave an unbreakable thread between them. I knew they’d be together forever. Their love would make it.

And most importantly, as I watched my mother and father rediscover each other, I began to understand that true love requires equal parts sacrifice and baptism.

***

Read the rest of “Now You See Me” in the After Lines anthology by Erebus Press, a collection of dark happily-never-after tales.

Have a blog and want to review the anthology? Contact stebuosi@gmail.com.

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Legends and Labyrinths

As a kid, I remember the thrill of clicking on the TV in my bedroom after everyone else in the house had gone to sleep. I turned the volume down low, so low anyone in the hallway outside my room wouldn’t hear it, even if they pressed their ear to the door. Because I took such great precautions to avoid getting caught watching movies past my bedtime, I had to lean toward the TV and remain still to hear the sound, which often resulted in a crink in my neck. I suffered many a sleepy morning, but it was worth it to watch whatever I wanted, alone in my room.

I always found something to watch, usually movies TV stations wouldn’t play during daytime peak hours but were okay with playing in the dead of night. They didn’t expect anyone to be watching at that time. But I was.

Legend movie poster

One of the movies I remember distinctly is one of Tom Cruise’s early films, a dark fairy tale directed by Ridley Scott called Legend. As a kid, I loved fairy tales. Not the sweet and bubbly ones where everyone gets married, and evil gets what’s coming to it. I read those, sure, but I also read the versions where body parts are hacked off, marriages are not always happy, and mermaids die. So Legend, with its terrifying portrayal of evil, fit neatly into my personal fairy tale canon.

The plot is rather simple: Jack, an innocent wood-dweller and presumably the very first animal whisperer, loves the fair and noble Princess Lily. To show her his devotion, he takes her to see the unicorns, the physical embodiment of the Light, all that is good and pure in the world. Lily is enchanted by the unicorns and moves close to touch one. At that very moment, a demon from the underworld shoots the unicorn with a poison dart, then cuts off its horn. As a result, darkness descends upon the valley. The remaining unicorn and Lily are herded into the underworld, where Darkness (see: the Devil) seeks to kill the last of the unicorns to rid the world of goodness—and seduce Lily. Jack, with the help of woodland fairy friends, must overcome great obstacles and battle Darkness to reinstate the natural balance between good and evil and save the woman he loves.

I adored this film as a kid. Every time I came across it late at night, flipping through stations, I’d always watch it. I was just as enchanted with the movie as Lily was with those unicorns.

I realize now, as an adult, my attraction to Legend had everything to do with seeing the fantastical beings I’d imagined in my head on the silver screen. They were given life and magic. And while I watched these characters, I became a part of their story, a part of their world. And there is nothing better than that sort of experience for a burgeoning storyteller.

When David Bowie died from cancer last month, my friend, Nikki, and I immediately scheduled a Labyrinth viewing party. By party, I mean the two of us with a bottle of wine and Thai food.

LabyrinthFor many of our generation, the tale of a baby brother stolen from Sarah (played by an incredibly young Jennifer Connelly) by Goblin King Jareth (Bowie) in a bizarre showing of … love? … is a seminal piece of our childhood. We remember the wonder (or fright) we experienced watching Jim Henson’s puppets flit across the screen. We remember the music, catchy tunes that most of us can sing verbatim if asked to do so. We most definitely remember Bowie’s glittery, rock star hair, tight pants and riding boots, and strange allure. We weren’t supposed to like him because he was a villain, and yet …

I tried to watch Labyrinth with my fiancé, but the film was lost on him. He never saw Labyrinth as a kid, and though he was open and understood it was a dated film, it simply didn’t work for him. All he saw were David Bowie music videos, awful dialogue (this part is true), and a fun but not altogether special assemblage of characters.

I realized then that watching movies as a child is so very different than watching movies as an adult. The childhood wonder of seeing something new cements films and worlds and characters in our imaginations as precious gems, remembrances of key moments of childhood – possibility, awe, and love. That nostalgia is what allows us to re-watch films that, in other circumstances, we’d deem absolutely horrid.

LegendLast night, I invited Nikki over to watch Legend with me, and I was nervous. Nikki hadn’t seen Legend before, and it had been a good 18 or so years since I’d seen it. I remembered it with love, but would it hold up? And would I be forcing my friend to watch something that didn’t play a role in her childhood and, thus, would just be terrible?

At the end of the night, Nikki and I had discovered a few basic truths about Legend:

Legend is Labyrinth’s big sister. The scandalous one. The one who takes great pleasure in scaring the bejesus out of you. They share a lot of the same thematics: puppetry, adventure, the overall goal to win over evil – but Legend presents it in a much more grownup way. This film boasts a PG rating, but it was created at a time when the PG-13 rating was just gaining traction, and I’m sure movie studios were sorting out what qualifies as shocking. In my opinion, Legend is pretty shocking. The monsters, demons, and Darkness (again, the Devil—played wonderfully by Tim Curry, still slightly recognizable beneath a crazy makeup job) are terrifying. Nikki and I thought we’d have nightmares.

Tom CruiseTom Cruise’s legs should enjoy their own billing. When we first meet Tom Cruise’s character, Jack, he drops out of a tree wearing a Peter Pan-meets-Tarzan ensemble and lands in a deep squat. It’s the kind of thing I do in yoga classes. From there on out, Jack’s legs are always on display, and he’s often lunging and crouching and flexing. Even when Jack discovers an outfit of gold armor, its coverage ends at his upper thigh, gladiator style. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from the gams, and Tom must’ve built tremendous strength during filming.

A lot of people lambast this movie. And I get it. The dialogue, like Labyrinth’s, is not always cohesive with the action. Sometimes, it’s just strange … and bad. Tom didn’t have his acting chops firmly in place at this time; he was very green. There are holes in the plot, and our suspension of disbelief can only stretch so far. But there are a lot of things this film gets right. The cinematography is gorgeous (and won quite a few awards after Legend’s release). The set designers truly outdid themselves in creating the contradiction of lush, beautiful woodlands and the harrowing halls and twisted corridors of, well, hell. The puppetry is unreal (there’s a witch in a swamp that is the epitome of terrifying), the dubbing is done rather well, and we have to remember this was a time when CGI was not the immediate solution. There are definitely special effects at play in this film, but by and large, a lot of it is practical. It’s an undertaking and quite the accomplishment.

Tim CurryAnd I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the incredible talent that is Tim Curry as Darkness. He’s deplorable but elegant. He’s charming and manipulative in the way that the most wonderful villains are (in my opinion). Then again, Tim Curry can really do no wrong.

All in all, the night was a success. I introduced Nikki to a cult classic and a very specific piece of my childhood. And me? I was cozied up under my comforter again, watching something I knew I shouldn’t be. It was a fun throwback.

And today, thinking and writing about Legend, I can’t help but smile, which only goes to prove my hypothesis: those first moments of magic, mystery, horror, and wonder that we experience as kids will remain with us forever.

If the Shoe Fits

 

Photo by flickr user "Glamhag"

Photo by flickr user “Glamhag”

Charles was ready to give up the charade, but he also knew that a royal proclamation was a royal proclamation; processes need to be adhered to and his father, the king, would have it no other way. Father, you and your politics, he thought bitterly. Charles sighed as he was led down the hall of the Flaubert residence, which smelled of polished wood, oranges, and quiet desperation. Before stepping across the threshold into what appeared to be a study, Charles took a breath and steeled himself. He knew exactly what was waiting for him.

As he rounded the corner, Capucine Flaubert straightened up in the gold and blue embroidered chair upon which she sat. She took a deep breath in through her nose and then out through the small “o” of her mouth. Her sister, Brigitte, removed her pinky from her ear and smiled at him, exposing the small gap between her two front teeth. Charles had heard that Brigitte could drink a draught of wine through that small space in less than five minutes. The sisters leaned forward in their chairs, the colorful folds of their dresses rustling a welcome tune, one Charles had no desire to hear.

The matron of the house, Josephine, a withered but beautiful woman, sat squarely in the corner, her lips pursed, amusement and expectation raising her thin eyebrows.

Madame, there are wolves in your study, Charles wanted to say to her. And it appears they are in good company.

“Your Highness,” Josephine purred, thick and sweet as coffee. She let her chin sink to her chest. Her daughters did the same, but their gazes never extinguished fully behind their open eyelids. Charles swallowed hard, feeling as if he were standing before the three women in merely a tunic.

“Madame Flaubert,” Charles acknowledged. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home.”

“Thank you for visiting,” Josephine said. “To what do we owe the honor?”

Playing coy are we? Charles thought. The Flaubert women were wearing their most expensive garments. Jewels dangled from their earlobes. A small tray of goat cheese and crusty bread sat on the table before them. They were expecting him.

“A very important matter,” Charles said, launching into the speech he’d recited at least 15 times during the course of the morning. “Last night, at the royal ball, I met an incredibly intriguing and beautiful young lady. However, before I was able to ask for her family’s name―or any other information about her―she disappeared into the night. Luckily, she left behind a small token.”

Charles glanced over his shoulder and Guillaume, his valet, hurried into the room holding an orange cushion upon which sat a glass slipper. Even in the dim light, Charles could make out the intricate etchings of flowers and birds in the glass. The shoe glowed with opportunity.

Capucine held her breath. Brigitte scooted forward in her seat. Josephine smiled like a cat. They waited for him to continue.

“I am looking for the owner of this shoe,” Charles said, “for whomever owns this shoe also owns my heart.” He cleared his throat and swallowed. “When I find her, I intend to ask for her hand in marriage.”

Which is why I hope I never find her, Charles thought.

Charles closed his eyes and remembered holding the shoe in the air the previous night, spouting nonsense about love and beauty in his low baritone voice. He kissed the shoe and then treated it to a romantic waltz to music only he could hear. Seated nearby and observing this silly escapade, Guillaume smiled broadly, rolled his eyes, and took another sip of wine. Then, Charles said the words that would damn him forever: “I swear, I would take the girl who wore this slipper as my wife.”

By the time Charles and Guillaume dissolved into drunken fits of laughter, the king, who had been watching the farce from the opposite doorway unbeknownst to the young men, retreated down a dark corridor. He’d heard enough―enough to draft a royal proclamation.
By sunrise, Charles was doomed.

“Why, that shoe belongs to me,” Capucine said, rising from her chair. “I’ve been looking for it all morning.”

“Have you?” Charles countered. Liar, he thought. She had red hair when the girl from the night before had been blond.

Capucine nodded and took a step toward him. “I enjoyed waltzing with you last night,” she said in a loud whisper, her blue eyes boring into him.

Why must they all act like hungry animals? Charles thought. He took a deep breath and banished the thought. It was time for the test.

“Which suite was your favorite to dance to?” he asked Capucine, a smile creeping across his mouth.

Capucine’s eyes widened. She glanced up at the ceiling and scratched the back of her hand.

It’s not fun being cornered, is it? Charles thought.

Suddenly, a smile spread across Capucine’s cheeks. “All of them,” she announced.

“But dearest, remember, we only had time to dance to one set before you ran off―Beauchen’s Springtime Suite,” Charles said.

Capucine blushed and remained quiet. For a heavy minute, no one in the study moved and Charles wondered if she’d be like the others. A number of girls who had inaccurately answered the question earlier in the day had run from the room crying or simply apologized over and over, knowing they had ruined their chances at happily ever after with a single incorrect response.

“It seemed like so much more than one dance,” Capucine finally managed, staring at the floor between them.

Charles sighed. She would not bow out gracefully. He would have to move forward with a fitting.

“No matter,” Charles said, the amusement gone from his voice. “I’m sure the excitement of the night has stripped your memory. Shall we see if the shoe fits?”

Capucine nodded and moved across the room to a vacant chaise draped in loud red fabric with gold trim. The chair didn’t match the rest of the room, which was decorated largely in cool tones of deep purple, forest green, and oak. The red chaise had clearly been staged. Capucine sat down, removed her right shoe, and held out her foot expectantly.

Charles suppressed a sigh. Why did all of these women expect him to touch their feet?

He took the glass slipper off the orange cushion and lowered himself to one knee, the left knee since the right was starting to bruise. He slipped the shoe over Capucine’s toes, but could not seem to coerce the slipper over her heel. Charles took a deep breath and swallowed relief.

Capucine looked to her mother—who simply raised an eyebrow—and then turned her attention back to the prince. Capucine pushed her foot forward and wiggled her toes, trying to create space in the shoe that simply did not exist.

“But,” she started, “but…you surely must understand that…”

“That…?” Charles asked.

“…my feet are…swollen…from dancing last night,” Capucine said.

Charles blinked hard to keep from rolling his eyes at the young girl.

Josephine cleared her throat. “Darling, I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” she said. “Perhaps you let your sister borrow those shoes last night? I believe you’ve outgrown them?”

Capucine’s shoulders sank. “Oh yes,” she muttered, placing her discarded shoe back on her right foot. “You must be right, Mother. I must have worn a different pair last night.”

Defeated and caught in a lie, Capucine slunk back to her chair, took a seat beside her sister, and crossed her arms over her chest.

Brigitte rose, knowing it was her turn, and walked to the red chaise as if it were her wedding day, her hands clasped in front of her belly like she was holding blooming flowers. Guillaume’s grunt of disapproval was nearly imperceptible.

One more foot, Charles chanted, one more foot. He and Guillaume had visited the homes of all the other eligible young women in the kingdom earlier in the day. Charles imagined the look on his father’s face when he reported he could not find the young lady who owned the glass slipper, despite a full day of searching. Charles smiled. Brigitte did the same, believing the smile was for her.

“Are you ready?” Charles asked.

“Of course,” Brigitte said. “I’ve been waiting for this.”

Just as the glass was about to touch Brigitte’s toes, a crash sounded from overhead. Charles sprang to his feet and looked up to the ceiling. “What was that?” he asked.

“Perhaps a rodent has made its way into the house,” Josephine said coolly. “Paulette!”

A large woman swaddled in layer after layer of white cotton appeared in the doorway a few moments later. “Madame?”

“I need you to go upstairs and see what’s making all that noise,” Josephine said.

“Yes, Madame.”

“Paulette, please make sure there are no further disturbances.”

“Of course.”

“And you have my permission to use whatever force necessary. Do you understand?”

The maid nodded and Josephine settled back in her chair.

Charles listened to the maid ascend the stairs to the second floor. A door opened and shut and then he could hear nothing at all.

“Madame Flaubert, I could come back tomorrow morning if you have other things to attend to,” Charles offered, hoping this was his chance to escape.

“There is no need for that, Your Highness,” Josephine said. “The problem is being addressed. Please, proceed.”

Brigitte held out her foot and Charles dropped to one knee. When the glass kissed Brigitte’s foot, she giggled and Charles winced. Expecting the shoe to again fall short, Charles made a big show of leaning his weight into Brigitte to coerce the shoe onto her foot. Unfortunately, he didn’t have to try very hard. The shoe slipped onto Brigitte’s foot as if it had been made for her.

Charles’ mouth dropped open and Brigitte smiled. Charles stared at her brown hair, the gap between her teeth, the hunger in her eyes and knew that he’d lost. He was backed into a corner.

“It fits,” Brigitte said proudly.

“It does,” Charles conceded.

Feeling numb to his surroundings, Charles climbed to his feet and took a step toward Josephine.

“Madame, may I have Brigitte Flaubert’s hand in marriage?”

********

The wheels creaked and wind whipped the carriage from time to time, but Charles and Guillaume remained silent during their return to the palace. Charles replayed the fateful moment when Brigitte’s foot slipped into the shoe over and over in his mind, but it deteriorated a little more each time. It was like a dream, runny at the edges so that he couldn’t quite pin it down, couldn’t remember it clearly. If he thought it through enough, broke down the memory so that it no longer made sense, could he claim it had never happened?

“Your Majesty.”

They’d stopped moving. Charles looked up into Guillaume’s green eyes and didn’t know what to say.

“Charles.”

And that single word, his name, almost broke him.

“What are we going to do?” Guillaume asked.

“I should have known this was going to happen,” Charles said. “I pretended it wouldn’t…I’m sorry. It isn’t fair to you.”

“Your father,” Guillaume said.

“Yes, my father,” Charles acknowledged.

“Do you think he knows?”

“I’m not sure.”

Guillaume closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. Charles wanted to reach out and rub the stubble on Guillaume’s cheek, but the royal guards were in close proximity. Charles had become very good at suppressing urges, but for what? A royal decree that would leave him cold and alone.

“You know,” Charles said, “we don’t have to stop.”

“We don’t?”

“No.” Charles paused, formulating his response carefully. “Brigitte was not the girl from last night. I am positive of that. She’s lying to me, so I don’t see anything wrong with lying to her.”

Charles could see Guillaume turning the thought over in his head and then a broad grin stretched across his handsome face. Longing swelled in Charles’ chest. Guillaume’s brow crinkled and Charles knew he’d lost the young man to his thoughts.

“What are you thinking?” Charles asked.

“I’m thinking that Brigitte is a wolf,” Guillaume mused, “but it’s a little unfair to her, don’t you think—working so hard to trap a prince in her lair only to find she can’t eat him for dinner?”

Charles grinned. “Well, a royal proclamation is a royal proclamation.”

 

Photo license – Glamhag