Deceit:A Beauty and the Beast Novel(2)

By: M.J. Haag

When I walked into the room, the curtains still covered the windows, making it hard to see even without his mist clouding the area. I found my way to the closest window and tugged the drapes wide open. Light poured in, and I turned to view the room. A small gasp escaped me at the vastness.

The large room boasted enough furniture for several sitting areas, though everything was knocked about haphazardly. Filled bookcases lined every wall, even above the two doors. The only interruptions were the four windows on the outer wall and a fireplace near the door from which I’d entered. Eager to see more, I moved to tug open each curtain and finally saw the library in full.

Ignoring the beast, I set to work righting furniture and shoving pieces across the wood floor to the positions I wanted. Whenever I found a book tumbled to the floor, I set it on the small writing desk near the center window. Until I had a chance to discover how the books were categorized and ordered, I didn’t want to place anything onto the shelves.

I worked for hours until the sudden whoosh of the fire lighting itself distracted me. A tray of food rested on a table I’d placed near the first seating arrangement. Wiping my dusty hands on my skirt, I went to sit and eat while my eyes drifted over the room, seeking what I would work on next. The area near where I sat was restored to order. The far side of the room still needed much attention.

After devouring every bite of fruit and cheese, I went back to work. By the time the sun set, the library met my approval, and I began to study the books. I counted twenty-two floor to ceiling segmented bookcases. In each, there were at least fifteen shelves. Most were organized by subject, then author. However, several shelves seemed to be dedicated to a particular author.

Slowly, I began to see where the fallen books I had collected belonged and started to tuck them back into place. One shelf in particular gave me trouble as it towered just out of my tiptoed reach. Looking down at the lower shelf, I wondered if it would support my weight.

Rising to two legs, the beast stepped up behind me, plucked the book from my grasp, and then easily slid it into its place. Startled, I stared at his furred arm until it disappeared from view, not daring to turn around.

“Do not climb on the shelves,” he said, having guessed my intent. “You will fall.”

As quickly as he’d crowded me, I felt him move away; and I released the breath I’d held. When I looked around the room, I noticed him in the furthest, darkest corner, his mist obscuring him. I’d been so engrossed in the library I’d forgotten his presence.

“Thank you,” I said softly.

A clock in the corner chimed for the half hour. I glanced at the face, saw how late it was, and yawned.

“Come. Eat. I will take you to your room afterwards,” the beast said from his corner.

Again a tray with fruits, nuts, and cold water waited for me on the table. I ate everything then followed him through the dim, lamplit hallways, memorizing the path from the library to my room.

He opened the door to the room and stood aside to let me enter. As I passed him, my arm brushed against his torso, and he growled. A shiver of fear ran through me.

“Good night,” he said simply and left me alone in the profusely pink room.

Giving the room a more thorough inspection than I had the first time, I found the bed soft and inviting, the wardrobe full of clothes, and a soft cloth waiting by the bowl of warm water on the washstand. I wiped the dust from my face and hands then went to the wardrobe and found several nightgowns, all sheer, with matching sheer wraps. At least they weren’t pink, I thought as I undressed and slipped into a pale blue one.

I climbed into bed and thought of my family. I didn’t doubt that the beast had freed them; he wanted me here willingly, for whatever his reasons. By now, I imagined my family had returned safely to the Water. Curling onto my side, I wondered how they would fare without me. Though I hoped that having one less mouth to feed would ease some of Father’s burden, I knew he would rather have me home than here. Yet, the beast’s manor didn’t seem too terrible. I was free to roam inside the manor, regularly fed, and, so far, no demands had been made of me.

Sighing, I closed my eyes and wondered what I would do to occupy myself here. As interesting as this enchanted place was, if the rest of my days followed today, I would grow bored quickly.

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