Deceit:A Beauty and the Beast Novel(6)

By: M.J. Haag

“Tell me true, did I miss any?” he whispered.

Reluctantly, I nodded and rolled to my stomach, breaking our contact.

He laved the scrapes on the backs of my legs and arms and then the bottoms of my feet, which made me twitch and giggle involuntarily. When he finished, he moved away from me, retreating into the mist.

For the rest of the day, I contented myself with books and tried to forget his presence.

* * * *

No trousers waited in the wardrobe the next day, just a selection of translucent gowns. Smiling at the selection, I picked the most modest dress from them and tucked another ripped panel from the curtains, which hadn’t disappeared.

The beast waited in the hallway with less mist than the day before.

“I don’t like the dress,” he said again.

“Me neither,” I said agreeably. “I thought I would be able to wear trousers today.”

“If you would like to go out again today, you can change in the servant’s quarters in the kitchen. Your trousers are there and are only meant for outside. Inside, I want you wearing the dresses you find within your wardrobe.”

Nodding, I walked hurriedly toward the kitchen. True to his word, trousers waited on one of the beds as did boots and a cream shirt. I quickly closed the door and changed. The trousers were a bit snugger than I was used to, as was the shirt, but the boots fit well.

Eagerly, I stepped from the room and held out my arms to do a slow turn for the beast.

“Well?” I prompted with a smile on my face.

“Lovely,” he said.

Happy with the clothes, I led the way out the door. As I slowly explored the area in front of the manor, the beast paced behind me. Near lunch, I sensed his growing impatience and knew my time outside would soon come to an end. It didn’t upset me. It had been an enjoyable outing.

“Go change,” he said. “Do not wear these clothes inside unless you want to lose them.”

I went back into the servant’s quarters and closed myself in to change. Immediately, I saw what he’d done. The dress remained where I’d set it, but my scraps of curtain were missing. I sat heavily on the mattress, its material too thick to tear without the help of a knife. There was nothing else to shield myself from his gaze. If I stayed in the trousers or tried to use the shirt in some way, I had no doubt they would be gone in the morning, and I would not see them again.

Defeated for the moment, I put on the dress and marched out the door. The table in the kitchen was laden with food.

“I’m not hungry,” I said and turned to leave.

“Stop. Turn and show me your dress as you did when you changed this morning.”

Teeth clenched to keep from telling him what I thought of him, I slowly turned a circle, keeping my arms at my side.

“If you’re finished demeaning me, I’d like to go to my room.”

He growled low and long.

“Sit. Eat. Or I will feed you.”

Glaring at the swirling mist near the door of the kitchen, I marched to the table, spotted a bowl filled with meat and gravy, and stuck my hand in it. Pulling a fist full of dripping meat from it, I proceeded to shove it in my mouth in the most grotesque, unladylike fashion I could imagine.

His roar shook the windows, but I ignored him, swallowed the lump of meat, and reached for the roasted baby potatoes. With my hand. I crammed one in my mouth and chewed noisily.

“I said sit.”

I sat heavily on the chair, not bothering to face the table. Never taking my eyes from him, I reached to the side and grabbed the next item. Stewed plums. Though a disgusting dish I usually avoided, I didn’t blink as I shoved some in my mouth and dribbled juice down the front of my dress. The plums gagged me when I swallowed, and I lost the remaining threads of my temper.

Without standing, I grabbed the dish and threw it with all my might at the beast, whose form briefly appeared in the mist. The bowl hit him squarely, broke apart, and drenched him in the sugared plum sauce.

The mist disappeared, and I saw the rage in his eyes.

“Run,” he whispered.

A shiver ran through me, and I bolted from my chair, my skirt floating around my legs as I ran for my room. I wouldn’t make it unless he chose to let me.

Behind me, I heard a mighty crash and another roar.

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