Deceit:A Beauty and the Beast Novel(5)

By: M.J. Haag

“May I have eggs for breakfast?” I asked pleasantly. “Oh, and bacon?” My mouth watered at the idea.

He answered with subdued approval and followed me through the hallways until I found the library. A tray already waited with the food I’d requested. Instead of searching for a book, I sat on the sofa and took a large bite.

“Do you eat?” I asked.

He’d pulled the mist around himself again, but not so fully that I couldn’t see the outline of him.

“Of course,” he answered.

“No need to sound so offended. Nothing else here seems normal, and you never eat with me, so I wasn’t sure.” I took several more bites. “What shall I do today?” I asked.

“Whatever you wish,” he answered.

Finishing my meal, I found my way to the kitchen and wandered out the door. Every time I’d left the kitchen, I’d gone straight toward the estate’s gates. This time, I turned left, hopefully toward the side of the manor with the library.

The dainty slippers did little to protect my feet as I tromped along, and my soles grew tender as I walked. Still, I pressed on until I walked the length of the front of the manor. Stopping, I looked up at one spot and counted four stories. Somehow, I’d missed seeing a staircase on the second story.

Rounding the corner, a patch of thick briars forced me away from the manor and into the woods. I felt a snag on my dress a moment before I heard the material rip. A good portion of my thigh was now exposed.

“I don’t care for my dress either,” I said over my shoulder in response to the beast’s earlier comment.

He said nothing as he followed me.

By the time I circled around the briars, I sported several snags and tears in the dress and truly appreciated the pieces of curtain I’d tucked inside of it. I bled from a few small scrapes, but it was nothing that slowed me down.

Finally, I came to the place where I’d spotted the nymphs, but neither remained. Disappointed, I looked toward the window. It would have been a much shorter journey to have climbed out from there. Shaking my head, I continued in the same direction and eventually found the door the beast had used to reach the nymphs the day I’d read to him.

With relief, I limped back to the library and sat on the sofa to tug off my slippers. This wouldn’t have happened if he had let me keep my boots. The cuts were starting to sting.

“I need better clothes,” I said. “Sturdy ones that will stand up to briars and stones.”

“No. If I cannot touch you, I will at least look at you.”

“That’s why I have to wear this? Fine.” I flopped back onto the sofa and put my feet up. “Touch my hair then give me boots, sturdy trousers, and a man’s shirt.”

A slight choked noise came from behind me, and I closed my eyes, not believing I’d let my temper escape.

“My apologies,” he said. “Allow me to heal your injuries.” It came as a demand rather than a request.

“I’d rather have trousers.”

“Allow me to heal your injuries, and you will have your trousers when you journey outside.”

“Fine,” I said, knowing he’d neither offered boots nor a shirt. Trousers were a start, though.

His tongue lapped at my ankle, startling me from my thoughts. He moved higher, not needing to move the dress to soothe the cut on my knee. Warmth flooded me after his tongue found the light scrape on my thigh.

When he moved to the slight tear in the material on my stomach, I trembled, no longer certain of our deal. He ran his tongue over the tiny wound several times before moving upward. Then, he paused. His massive head hovered just above my breasts, the heat of his breath warming them.

Before I could think to panic, he continued upward toward my chin, and I recalled a branch that had snapped back at my face. The touch of his tongue so close to my mouth sent a shiver chasing through me. He licked me from just below my chin to my bottom lip.

“Touch me,” he said.

My eyelids popped open, and I found myself staring into his eyes. Large, wide set in his shaggy head and deep blue, they held me in place with no mist separating us. I raised a hand and gently placed it against his neck, the soft fur warming my fingers. Underneath, I felt him shudder, and I wondered how often he felt anyone’s touch. Probably never. The creatures here seemed to fear him as much as the townspeople.

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