DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
Book Two: Desperately Ever After series
By Laura Kenyon
Imagine what might happen if our most beloved fairy tale princesses were the best of friends and had the dreams, dilemmas, and libidos of the modern woman. How would their stories unfold after true love's kiss? Set in a fictional realm based on New York City, the Desperately Ever After series sprinkles women’s fiction with elements of fantasy, and encourages readers to rethink everything they know about happy endings.
After watching her fairy tale go up in flames, Belle is finally starting over. With a baby on the way, a business to run, and a new love interest she just can't shake, things are finally looking up. That is, until she learns her independence might revive broken curses the world over. Could "happily ever after" really mean staying with her unfaithful husband? Or will Belle and her steadfast friends find another way?
Meanwhile, Dawn still longs for the life she had three centuries earlier—before her sleeping curse ended in two kids, an unfamiliar era, and a husband she barely knows. So when she encounters the childhood sweetheart she believed to be dead, Dawn must suddenly choose between the past she once wanted and the present she never knew she did.
Damsels in Distress takes a whimsical look at our most beloved fairy tale characters several years down the road. Part Sex and the City, part Desperate Housewives, and part Brothers Grimm, it’s ultimately about a group of friends coming to terms with how their lives have turned out. They just happen to live in castles.
With the exception of Belle’s momentary disappearance, the grand opening of the Phoenix B&B was brilliant. The morning fog broke early to usher in a bright turquoise afternoon, a tangerine sunset, and a starry black night. The dangling plum votives and cherries jubilee were showstopping. The band played on an extra hour—for free and at the request of the guests. By the end, no less than twenty pairs of shoes lay abandoned between the tables, which had been shoved to the grass to make room for more dancing. By all accounts, Belle’s great gamble was already a smashing success. By all accounts, that is, but hers.
After the last brake light disappeared in a soft red haze and her friends’ hushed reassurances retreated into silence, Belle stepped into the shower and tried to disintegrate. She felt like nothing more than ash, an extraneous clump of cornstarch trapped in an insoluble skin. It was a horrid thought. Wrapping her arms over the tiny bulge protruding from her belly, she watched the water splatter against her swollen feet and tried to get a grip.
Her friends had left the party happy and healthy, after all. Dawn hadn’t slipped back into a coma. Snow’s veins hadn’t suddenly filled with poison. Belle hadn’t taken the bait and returned to the life she’d tried so hard to escape. But still, Ruby’s words writhed like maggots through her wounds—minus the healing properties.
“All broken curses are linked,” the fairy had said. If Belle ended the marriage that had transformed Donner from beast back to man, everyone’s broken curses would return. Belle would be responsible for an exorbitant amount of suffering, countless happy endings ruined, lovers torn apart forever—all because she had the audacity to want her freedom.
She leaned into the sandstone tiles that she’d handpicked barely a month earlier. They were light and smooth, and full of fascinating imperfections. She could stare at them for hours, tracing the waves of color and wondering how many years it took for them to get that way. At Braddax Castle, on the other hand, the bathroom was cold and sharp. Angular and metal. Donner hadn’t let her soften it at all once they married. Softening him had been enough—and look how long that lasted.
She couldn’t bear the thought of returning to that existence. She’d come too far. The Phoenix had just opened its doors. The butter yellow alcove beside her bed was dressed and waiting for a crib. The guest rooms were already filled with excited young couples, hungry for sweet potato waffles in the morning and hours of hiking in the afternoon.
Maybe the infallible Ruby Welles, one of the last pureblood fairies in a world of dwindling magic, was wrong. Maybe she’d misread that stupid book. Maybe the words had expired over the decades—like a block of cheddar cheese. Or at worst, maybe Belle could get around the prophecy by staying “married” in name only. Maybe she could find a way to live at her inn, have her baby, keep a “husband” she rarely had to see, and forget she’d ever clapped eyes on that magic rulebook at all.
She straightened up and spun the faucet, slicing the water off at the head. The air vacuumed all the heat from her body instantly, leaving her naked, red, and shivering. She stepped onto the tile, instinctively avoided the mirror, and wrapped herself violently in a towel. Beast was probably still curled up beside the fireplace in the lounge—his favorite spot after the foot of her bed. She made a mental note to check all the locks when she went to fetch him. Then she pushed open her bedroom door.
“All that steam can’t be good for the baby.”
The voice cut through the room. Belle jolted and secured her slipping towel just in time. She fumbled for the light switch but the tiny lamp it powered barely revealed Donner’s silhouette.
She wanted to shout out, to scream. What are you doing here? How did you get in? Do I need to get a restraining order?
Instead, she squirmed her towel a bit higher on her chest, bit down on her rage, and waited.
“So. This is your room,” he said, less a question than a personal observation.
She bit her lip and stared at the bottle of stretch oil on her beside table. Her cleavage was itching like crazy. She couldn’t be pregnant and deal with this.
Against the pastel walls, Donner was a massive dark spot that the peonies and baby unicorns were trying in vain to squeeze out. He looked closer to sixty than to thirty-six hunched there, half-hidden behind the curtain, which he was kneading and twisting around in his massive hands. Still, there was something poetic about him being in her brand new bedroom, in what was supposed to be her brand new life, without the slightest idea she’d just been crying her eyes out over the thought of having to stay with him.
“I would have let you decorate our bedroom like this if you’d asked,” he said.
Belle shook her head but didn’t see the point in arguing. It was harder to hate him when he stopped flexing his muscles and started wearing his remorse.
“Donner, I’m tired. Whatever you want, we can talk about it at the next appointment with Dr. Frolick. It’s only —”
“Listen to me!” he roared as both curtains crashed to the floor, revealing a bare window—black glass against the black sky—and a reflection that sent Belle’s heart racing. She immediately clutched her stomach. It couldn’t be.
“Something’s happening,” Donner said, stepping slowly into the light. “Belle. Something’s happening to me.”
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1lBNFfo
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1pMJOBO
Laura’s blog: http://laurakenyon.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laura_kenyonFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraKenyonWrites