Title: Beauty’s Cursed Beast
Author: Mary E. Twomey
Genre: Fairytale Retellings/Paranormal Romance
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
When you push everyone in your life away, sometimes they stay gone.
Going from being Avondale’s Sexiest Bachelor to becoming hideously deformed turns Adam Fontaine into an angry shut-in. Though he’s doomed to mutate into a growling member of the Lupine when his thirtieth birthday comes, he wants nothing to do with enjoying what’s left of his sentient life.
When his last remaining friend hires a nurse to look after him, Adam realizes there’s more to his life than just his impending curse. Soon Adam has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep the woman he loves by his side, hoping she’ll stay with him through his last days.
Mary E. Twomey lives in Michigan with her husband and three adorable children. She enjoys reading, writing, vegetarian cooking and telling her children fantastic stories about wombats.
A Word from the Sheriff
The musty basement hadn’t been used in at least a decade, and even then, it hadn’t been for the traditional purpose most would associate with dungeons. Adam’s gaze flitted over the first cell, where he recalled engaging in raucous sex with a woman who’s name he couldn’t recall. He remembered the fire in her eyes when she’d asked about his dungeon, and her wild screams of ecstasy when she got to fulfill her daring wish of defiling a dungeon. Before then, Adam guessed perhaps his great-great-grandfather had used the space for its intended purpose.
The brass two-foot tall candelabra lit the way, casting shadows that made Fabrice jump with trepidation. Fabrice didn’t fight him, but Adam didn’t lessen his jerky movements as he threw the old man into the dank, cold and dark cell. “You should know better than to pull one over on me.”
With arthritic fingers, Fabrice brought himself to his feet and held tight to the bars. “Please, Mr. Fontaine. Sheriff Aston does stuff like this all the time. He’s angry that I won’t give him what he wants, so he abuses his power to try and twist me. If it was anything else, I might bend, but not this.”
“Save your stories for someone who cares.”
“You should care!” Fabrice cried out when Adam turned his back. “You should care because it’s your business that suffers. The sheriff makes up tariffs and takes money we don’t have. Then we’re late on paying our mortgage to you. If it doesn’t affect your conscience, then you should at least be upset that he’s gouging your bottom line. How many homes have you foreclosed on in the past year in the West Village?”
Adam paused, and turned his chin to glance at Fabrice over his shoulder. “Too many. But I always abide by the contracts. I wouldn’t force an eviction on your home if you were only two months late. No sheriff would enforce it if I did.”
Fabrice nodded, now that it seemed they were finally getting somewhere. “Yes, but a notice was posted on my property, and you’ll see I was only two months late. And we wouldn’t have been late if we hadn’t had to pay four thousand dollars in an unexpected bridge tax this year. No one can keep up. As soon as we pay the tax, another comes. I’m telling you, many are losing their homes and their reputations because the sheriff is taking money that’s rightfully yours.” Fabrice’s fingers tightened on the bars. “I’ve only been able to keep up because he didn’t give me the newest tariff. Everyone else in the village had to pay, but we didn’t.”
Adam didn’t like being in the dungeon, but he turned to face Fabrice and folded his arms over his chest, resolving himself to hear the man out if it affected his business, as Fabrice claimed. “And why is that?”
Anger flashed in the old man’s eyes, causing Adam to take a step back. “Because Gabe Aston wants my daughter! He’ll do anything, including throwing me in jail, to get at her. When the newest tariff came about, she went to him without my knowledge and agreed to take him up on his bribe.”
Fabrice’s voice shook with palpable pain. “He said he would drop the tax on our family if she agreed to go away for a weekend with him.” Fabrice cringed as he gripped the bars, his eyes squinching tight. “I hope you never have to know what it feels like to have someone you value more than anyone else in the world allow herself to be traded like trash and trinkets to a violent swine like the sheriff.” He sniffed, his wet nose running and red. “The eviction notice was just to scare me. The false charges for arrest is what’s truly dangerous, though. If he takes me away and locks me up, then my daughter will have no one, and he’ll win.”
Adam gaped at the old man, wondering how he’d stumbled into such a tangled web that had apparently been going on right under his nose. All he’d seen were the numbers. The annual household income, and the average mortgage price. He hadn’t understood why the people in the West Village couldn’t pay their rent. On paper, it certainly looked like they had the means. He’d assumed they were lazy, uneducated or frivolous, but apparently it had been something else entirely.
For the second time that day, Adam’s doorbell rang. “That’ll be the police. Faster than I was anticipating. Stay here, and I’ll get it all sorted.” He pointed at the old man with a menacing finger. “Never come to my house with this much drama again.”
It was the humble, “yes, sir,” that made Adam cringe. Had Fabrice been petulantly silent or begged for more time to make his case, Adam wouldn’t be able to justify the gruff behavior he’d never hesitated to heap onto strangers. Adam clenched his fists but didn’t say anything. In fact, just for the man’s sweetness, which had no real place here, Adam shut the door without turning on a single light, taking the candelabra with him, and shrouding the old man in darkness.
Adam’s steps were heavy as he stomped up the stone steps. The chill in his house was far more unforgiving in the basement, making the drafty main floor feel like a heated sunroom by comparison. He stalked over to the front door and flung it open. “Sheriff,” he greeted the dark-haired officer, but didn’t invite him inside.
From a single look, Adam had a hard time finding holes in Fabrice’s story. He’d never seen a cop wearing fine leather shoes before. Gabe’s black, coifed hair was perfectly done, and his face was shaved so closely, it looked like a barber had recently done it. He wore four gold rings, each of them shiny, jeweled, and something to stare at.
It wasn’t the opulence that put Adam off – he himself had plenty of baubles in the safe upstairs – it was the bawdy impracticality, and the obvious display of wealth that didn’t seem befitting with the “servant” aspect of “public servant” all cops usually adhered to.
“Do you have the suspect inside?” Gabe adjusted his gold name badge and flashed a perfectly white-toothed gleaming grin at Adam. His uniform shirt was two sizes too small, which allowed him to show off his musculature with the simplest flex.
“Depends. I do a lot of entertaining. You’ll have to be more specific. Who are you looking for, and what’s he being charged with?”
Gabe’s smile fell, and the squat, portly cop standing on the stoop behind him shoved his hands in his pockets. The deputy had part of his shirt untucked, his pants were too big for his shorter frame, and he had a clubbed foot. “You were the one who called in the tip. Surely Fabrice is here. His old beater is still in your driveway.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the car.
Adam grimaced at the hideous vehicle, and silently marveled that it had made it all the way to his home from the West Village. “What’s he being charged with?”
“Well, as you can see, he’s not in public, and he’s only disturbing me. I’ll not press charges for that. Show me the warrant, and then tell me why you posted an eviction notice on his property. I’m the mortgage holder. You can’t carry through that process unless I initiate it, and I haven’t.”
The deputy shifted nervously, and scratched an itchy spot on the back of his head. His brown hair was messy and didn’t look like it had seen the inside of a barber in months. “You saw that, did you?”
Gabe didn’t waver, but Adam could see the lie blooming in his haughty eyes as it curled his upper lip. “Must’ve been a paperwork mix-up, then. I’ll remove the notice. I know he’s late on his payments, though.”
“And how would you know that?” Adam folded his arms across his broad chest, not holding back his stature that towered still a couple inches over the strapping Gabe.
At this challenge, Gabe shrank marginally. “Word around town spreads.”
Adam’s puffy upper lip coiled in a sneer. “You posted an eviction notice on hearsay?”
Gabe backpedaled quickly. “I was over their house. I’m dating Fabrice’s daughter, you know.” He adjusted his belt, as if to brag to Adam about the prize he’d nabbed. “Anyway, I saw the late notice in the mail on the table. Thought I’d do you a favor and start the process for you.”
Adam scoffed, understanding enough of the story to realize Fabrice had been telling him the truth. “How about this: if Prince Henry looks into your dealings with Fabrice and his daughter and finds anything shady, I’ll have you throw in your own jail. How does that sound?” He snarled as he fisted the doorknob. “I don’t need a crooked cop doing me any favors, and I certainly don’t need him breaking the law and blaming it on my company.”
Gabe’s jaw clenched as he took a step back, bumping into his partner, who fell backwards off the cracked concrete dais. “I can have the charges dropped, if that’s what you need.”
“I need you to do your job. If you’re not capable of doing that, Prince Henry will replace you.”
Gabe raised his hands, his sneer juxtaposing with his humble words. “Consider the charges dropped. And I’ll remove the eviction notice first thing.”
Adam was about to slam the door in his face, but the cough of an old red sedan caught his attention. He frowned, wishing the outside world would just leave him alone already, but paused his impending tirade when the squeaky car door opened, and its owner stepped out.
Adam hadn’t seen any woman aside from Rory in so very long. She had long legs, which she put to use stomping toward Gabe with a steadiness that belied the tremble in her slender fingers. With a look of brazen determination on her heart-shaped features, she beelined for the porch with an angry story on her face. “Gabe, how could you? Where is he?”
Gabe hopped down the steps and offered her a cocky smile he produced out of nowhere. It had a sideways tilt, and his voice carried a note of bravado that Adam found off-putting. “Here I am, tasty cakes.”
Adam’s face soured at the term of endearment. He didn’t need to know the woman to understand that the nickname didn’t suit her – or anyone, for that matter.
“Where is my father?” she clarified with a ripple of disgust marring her beauty. “He left a note that he was coming here. Why are you here? Where is he?”
Her hair was the color of pure maple. Despite the bun it had been fashioned into, several bits had fallen out, and blew back with the bite of the wind. The snow was deep enough that her jeans would be wet at the ankles, which for some reason bothered Adam. Her gloves were just as tattered as her father’s, but the holes in her winterwear made him irate instead of indifferent, as he had been with Fabrice.
“Belle, calm down. You’re always so tense. Let me give you a ride home. Your face is positively red with the cold.” Gabe leaned toward her with a smarmy grin that made Adam recoil. “Or perhaps that’s a little blush I see.”
Adam felt as if it could be seen from space how much she loathed the man who was clearly making a pass at her – and badly, at that.
Belle didn’t address Gabe, but made her way past him up the porch. When she took in Adam standing in the doorway, her big brown eyes grew impossibly wider. She seemed to forget her mission at the sight of his beastly features, but finally her shrunken voice found the words. “Sorry to bother you, sir. Have you seen a man around here who answers to Fabrice?”
Adam hadn’t been addressed by a beautiful woman in ages. Sure, the kingdom was enamored of Rory’s delicate features, but he’d known her since they were children, and didn’t appreciate her beauty the way the public did. He straightened his posture and wished he’d changed into proper clothes that morning. Or showered. “You’re welcome to come in and wait for him here.”
Gabe spoke for her the moment she opened her mouth to respond. “I’m sure she would rather wait in my squad car. Come on, Belle. We’ll make Rufus ride in back.” He let out a haughty laugh that Rufus joined along with halfheartedly.
Adam held open the door for her and jerked his head to indicate the choice was hers.
Despite her obvious reluctance to be near the deformed man in pajamas whom everyone knew was a gruff shut-in with mental health issues, Belle braved the unknown rather than stay another second in Gabe’s presence. She would take a chance on the monster who used to be a man, rather than stand another second next to the man who was truly a monster. “Thank you, sir.”
The moment she stepped inside, Gabe moved to follow her. Adam stood in the doorway, his barreled chest blocking the path and proving to the arrogant sheriff that he would not be intimidated. While Gabe was powerful in his village, Adam had deep pockets and even deeper connections. “You don’t step inside without a warrant, Officer. You can call to confirm that the eviction notice has been removed, and then I never want to hear from you again.” He slammed the door and locked it, wondering how his day had gone so very off the rails.