By Wendy Stone
In this sensual retelling of a popular fairy tale, a cursed lord takes in a new maidservant, tempted to give into her charms as her attraction to his beastly appearance strengthens. Can they overcome the obstacles that threaten them?
"Hurry up!" His growl reverberated throughout the bed chamber.
She hurried up to him, book in hand, her small satin slippered feet scurrying up the steps that led to the huge, ancient bed in the center of the dark, stuffy bedroom. Sitting on the edge, she lifted the book, showing him the front of it, waiting quietly.
"Go on!" he growled, his temper foul.
"Once upon a time," she began, reading from the old book, for that is how all good fairytales begin here and everywhere in the world. "There was a girl born on the edge of a small village to poor people..."
* * * *
Melissa was a beautiful girl, full of love and laughter, and always a kind word to say to any who needed it. She lived with her parents, her father was a slightly bewildered farmer whose crops never amounted to much more than what the family needed. Her mother, once a carefree woman, took in mending and made clothing for the family's more affluent neighbors to help make ends meet.
When it became known that the big manor house outside of the village was being cleaned out, that an owner had been found and would be moving to the country for health reasons, her mother sent her to inquire about work, Melissa was old enough to be a maid.
She dressed in her nicest dress, a muted green that made her hazel eyes shine with gray green flecks and brought out the gold in her blonde hair. She pulled her long tresses back from her face, catching it up in a tail at her nape that fell to the small of her back. She'd blossomed into a beauty in the last days of her eighteenth year, her figure filling out the bodice of the dress nicely, leaving small mounds of flesh to draw the eye. Her hips were slender but ripe, her buttocks pleasing to watch as she walked to the manor house and rang the bell.
"Yes, miss?" said the older gentleman who opened the door. He was thin to the point of leanness, his head bare of hair except for the tiniest bit at his ears. His arms seemed almost too long for his body and his nose filled his face overly much, making him one of the homeliest men she'd ever seen.
"My name is Melissa, sir. Melissa Turner. I come from the village seeking employment." Her voice was breathless from nerves, her cheeks were burning and she knew they must be bright red.
The gentleman opened the door wider, ushering her into the foyer of the huge manor which was still full of cobwebs and dust. "My name is Jeffrey, Miss Turner. I will let the master know that you be wishing to work here." He turned, hesitated a moment, and turned back toward her.
"The master is a sick man, Miss Turner. His illness has taken a toll not only upon his body but upon his manners as well. He isn't ... an easy man to be around. But he is a good man and a fair master most of the time." His ears turned red and he stammered out the order to stay put, as if he were embarrassed by what he'd just said.
He was back before she could get even more nervous, waving her ahead of him, guiding her to a room at the back of the manor house. "He will see you, miss, but I must warn you. Today is not one of his better days. Do not be offended by anything he says. He's not himself."
Melissa nodded. "Thank you, Jeffrey," she said, bobbing him a small curtsey and taking a deep breath as he opened the door and waved her in.
She entered the room. It had once been a grand library, with shelves over all the walls that were now empty of books and covered with dust. A fire roared in the fireplace, sending a wisp of smoke back into the room and causing her to cough lightly as she looked around.
"Well," a voice roared from the shadows. "What are you waiting for?"
"Sir?" she asked, her hand rising to her throat as nerves tried to overtake her.
"You want something ... spit it out, girl."
"A ... A job sir, that is all that I want," she said, speaking up loud enough for him to hear. "I will work hard for you if you will but hire me."
"Undress," he growled from his hidden corner.