After accidentally cursing a princess to a hundred years of sleep, fairy Calliope La Fae couldn't get hired to enchant horse dung, let alone work as a court fairy to a royal family. The only way she made it to the castle was by way of the dungeon, and the only way she made it out with her life was by risking the use of her fractured magic for the first time in years.
And so a spell is cast, and two lovers enchanted...
King Aaron should be concentrating on saving his brother from Calliope's enchanted castle, but he can't seem to keep his mind on anything but the fairy herself. Whether it's in the castle bath, by the side of the road or tied to a tree -- he'll take Calliope any way he can get her, again and again. Even when the spell is broken, he can't get the woman out of his mind. There's no way he'll let her end up the next victim of her own magic, no matter what he has to risk to save her from her own century of beauty sleep.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Beauty Sleep by Anna J. Evans
Aaron, King of Outer Kartolia, was royally pissed.
He'd been on holiday for no more than three weeks and this mess was what he returned to find. Johann was lost to the enchanted castle north of their lands--his journey there a stunt to punish Aaron for missing his younger brother's sixteenth birthday, no doubt. And Henri, his royal advisor, had taken the law into his own hands without so much as a phone call to Kingdom City to solicit his king's advice. As a result, there was now a pixie or fairy or whatever she was locked in his dungeon, a dungeon he hadn't used in the four years since he took the throne.
"We have a perfectly serviceable jail, Henri. I can only assume you were indulging your flair for the dramatic."
"Never, Sire. She practices the black arts, she had to be detained in stone," Henri panted, already out of breath halfway down the stairs to the dungeon.
"That's a myth, Henri. Magic is magic and can not be influenced by such--"
"I must disagree, Sire. She hasn't cast a single spell as far as I know. I say the stone has kept her powerless."
"And I say her own restraint has kept her from turning you into a toad. You're lucky, Henri. I would not have been so kind if locked away for weeks in such conditions." Aaron couldn't even look at the man who scurried along beside him or he knew he would give in to the rage that filled him.
How dare he do this? No matter that he'd been a royal advisor since before Aaron was born. Henri knew how Aaron felt about these barbaric practices. It was this kind of behavior that kept Outer Kartolia's reputation as a wild, untamed land not fit for tourists alive. He'd just spent three weeks judging a ridiculous reality show in Kingdom City to help promote a more positive image for his country. Now that effort would be wasted as soon as news of the fairy's time in the dungeon hit the evening news.
And it would make the news because Aaron wasn't the king his father had been. He didn't believe in using threats to keep his people silent and obedient, too fearful to say a word against the Crown.
"Where is she?" Aaron asked the guard at the bottom of the stairs. The obese man scrambled to his feet, shoving a half-eaten turkey leg into the drawer of the ancient desk behind which he sat. Charming, and an act that would have earned him a cane whipping in Aaron's father's day.
"Back there at the end of the hall, Your Highness. Last cell to the right," he said, picking up a large ring of keys. "I'll take you back."
"Really, Aaron, there's no need for you to be down here. I can have the girl brought up to the throne room in an hour's time. You haven't even had time to change out of your riding clothes. The journey from Kingdom City is a long one and--"
"Who has been tending this prisoner?" Aaron demanded, his jaw tight as he swallowed the bile rising in his throat.
Dear god, he hadn't thought the dungeon would be a comfortable place after so many years of disuse--it hadn't been designed for comfort and neglect had made it even worse--but he hadn't expected this. Giant rats scurried into the walls, fleeing the light of the guard's lamp, and an overflowing waste bucket sat in the center of the room. Clearly no one had bothered to it empty in the weeks the prisoner had been confined. The smell was horrible, but that wasn't what turned his stomach.
It was the sight of her that did it. She lay on the stones, without so much as a blanket, either unconscious or dead, he couldn't be sure. What had obviously once been lovely, long blonde hair was matted with dirt and tangled around her face, her nightdress was torn and filthy and she possessed nothing but scraps of fabric tied around her feet to serve as shoes.
"I asked who has been tending this prisoner!" Aaron shouted the words this time and Henri jumped at his side, beginning to babble.
"Sire, I had no idea the creature was housed so pitifully. This was none of my--"
"Creature? You call this human being a creature and expect me to believe you meant for her to be treated well?" Aaron turned on the shorter, aging man, for once not caring that Henri had helped direct the course of the nation when he himself had still been in diapers.
"She's not a human, Sire. She's Fae, and the fairy responsible for your brother's loss."
"No, Johann is the man responsible for his own loss for being fool enough to venture into an enchanted castle. Just as you are the man responsible for torturing another living being, no matter what name you would call her."
"I gave orders for her to be secured, Sire, not treated like an animal. I swear it." Henri's rheumy eyes grew wide and frightened as he realized the depth of his mistake.
"I don't care what orders you gave. You were in charge of this country in my absence and you failed me, Henri. Your services are no longer needed. Consider yourself relieved of your duties immediately."
"You have a week to vacate your chambers."
"Surely you're joking, Prince Aaron," Henri said, disbelief and the beginnings of anger in his tone.
"I am not joking and I am no longer a prince. I am King of Outer Kartolia, Henri, a fact you would have done well to remember when you were making decisions as if the crown rested upon your own head." Aaron felt his hand move unconsciously to his sword.
The weapon was largely for show, something he strapped on after emerging from his limo and before mounting his horse for the three-mile ride through the ancient cobblestone streets of Torinth to his ancestral castle. The people enjoyed the sight of their ruler dressed in his finest riding clothes and saber, making his way home like the kings of old.
But today, Aaron knew he wouldn't mind putting the sword to its intended use--the drawing of blood. Henri's blood.
"You won't last a year without my counsel. You are not the king your father--"
"No, I am not the king my father was. You're right. Be thankful for that, Henri, or I would indulge the urge to slit your wretched throat." The words emerged as an outraged growl, and sent Henri scuttling off down the dark hall. The guard attempted to follow, but Aaron stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Open the door to the cell," he commanded.
The man obeyed without hesitation, the trembling of his hands betraying his fear. Good, let the man fear him and let him share that fear with the rest of the castle guard. Indulgence had won him few allies amongst a militia loyal to his father's memory. It was time to see what friends terror might win for him.
As Aaron entered the cell, a strange wind puffed gently against his face, a sweet fragranced breeze that carried none of the stink of the waste bucket. It distracted him as he knelt beside the woman and gently brushed the hair from her face, making him unprepared for the impact of the beauty he revealed.
"Dear...god..." It was suddenly difficult to breathe and Aaron felt his heart twist violently in his chest. It wasn't simply that she was beautiful--though she was, her delicate features achingly perfect even smeared with dirt--but that she was also so terribly familiar.
He felt he knew her, had always known her, as if the woman of his dreams had...