Excerpt

Urban Fairy Tale

Chapter 1:

And They Lived…

The Midas Citadel

“I’m going to throw up,” Taylor muttered, standing rigid before the chapel doors. His stomach bubbled. “Ringo, I’m seriously going to throw the fuck up.”

It wasn’t dignified for princesses to vomit; female ones probably never did. But as a guy, Taylor was a special case. There was no limit to the undignified shit he got away with. All of Enchant high society clutched their pearls before the hotheaded, upstart princess.

He lost count of the number of raised eyebrows when he petitioned for his marriage to be held at the Midas Citadel—a sacred space of the greatest reverence to all Enchants. The Citadel had been ground zero during the turning point in the Great War where Princess Zellandine, the Sleeping Dragon, Taylor’s ancestor, had been responsible for turning the tide against Idi the Witchking and his army.

As Zellandine’s descendant and the new Sleeping Dragon, Taylor was by far the worthiest to walk the holy grounds, despite what the nobility and gentry whispered behind his back. He and his true love, Corentin Devereaux, had saved the world for Enchants and humans alike countless times and never got so much as a thank-you. Taylor’s own father, after all these years, refused to extend the offer to mend fences. Lord Hatfield had been the Dragon before Taylor had taken up the mantle and wielded the briar lance, yet he refused to give any helpful guidance.

Taylor carried the emptiness of metaphorically losing his father on that fateful day he came out in spite as an angry teenager. Taylor had learned to let go. A tragedy his father couldn’t do the same. His father took his bitterness to the grave. Taylor had attended the funeral with Corentin at his side, and they remained long after they lowered his father’s casket into the ground. Only a month to the day before his wedding.

He shook his head as the anxiety gnawed at him, his thoughts swimming with dread. He was marrying Corentin. And every Enchant would be forced to recognize it, whether or not they accepted a princess could fall in love with a Cronespawn. It was too much to ask for their people to respect it, as they cursed their saviors yet praised Mother Storyteller for their enduring prosperity.

Taylor and Corentin were just microscopic cogs in a grand magical machine that no one questioned how it worked. In the end, it was better that way. At least no one came pounding down their front door for every fucking thing.

But that was insignificant as he stood before the stained glass chapel doors, fully aware his destiny waited on the other side. All he could think about was trying not to expel his breakfast. Which of course only made him obsess about it.

His fairy godfather, Ringo, a grizzled old pixie the size of a tubby housecat, sported outrageous, gigantic, pink butterfly wings. He stood atop a vase on tiptoe to check his bushy gray ponytail and then adjust his green tie. Ringo nodded to himself, seeming self-assured in the midst of Taylor’s runaway terror.

“You got this,” Ringo said, his tone confident. “You say ‘I do,’ he says ‘I do,’ you kiss, you drink a little booze, you kids go off and do what you do, and I pretend I don’t see those epic hickeys on you in the morning.” He busied himself by smoothing the long train of Taylor’s coat. “And please. You may be royalty and all, but for the love of Storyteller, don’t be slipping Corentin tongue at the ceremony. We gotta pretend we’re classy for today.”

Taylor swallowed again as he broke out in a cold sweat. “I’m not kidding. Seriously. I’m going to puke.”

Ringo punched him in the arm with a tiny fist. “Not in a Brave Little Tailor original you’re not.”

Taylor straightened his shoulders and sucked in a slow, even breath. His skin tingled as every pore sparked with agitation. The dragon that slept within his soul, his beloved ally, Zee, remained silent. He had mastered soothing her through the years. It had gotten to the point that Taylor barely perceived her presence inside him. Zee had become content as a lazy tabby, but was a force more horrific than chaos itself when Taylor summoned her.

The cheerful sunlight shone through the stained glass panels of the doors before him. Despite the happy faces of the fairy-tale figures captured in pastel pinks, blues, greens, and gold, from Little Red Riding Hood to the Little Mermaid, the colors only reminded him of the technicolor yawn churning in his stomach.

His knees wouldn’t stop shivering.

Taylor’s nerves revolted.

Run! his inner voice screamed. Wake up! it screamed louder.

One stained glass panel caught his attention and silenced his selfish thoughts.

In the panel, Snow White slept peacefully in her glass coffin, with her dark hair arranged around her face in luxurious curls and her fingers laced over her chest. Princess Snow’s story was a story of hope—hope that she would wake and overcome her curse. That she would rise to the highest of all princesses and rule with a benevolent hand as The Fairest of Them All.

Taylor blinked away the sting in his eyes.

If the loss of his father wasn’t enough, Taylor still mourned the loss of his brother. How had Atticus Hatfield—the current generation’s Snow White—fallen so far and so fast? Atticus’s perfect life had been laid before him like a golden path. His destiny was foretold the moment he took his first cries in his mother’s arms, and two-year-old Taylor was too young to understand his baby brother’s fate. No one understood—or perhaps everyone did—that Atticus would never conquer his curse but would ally himself with Idi the Witchking. No matter how much they tried to circumvent Snow White’s eventual fate with the ideal, Atticus had been doomed from the start.

And it was Taylor who had to make that final choice.

No one would find Atticus.

No one knew if his body would turn up.

Taylor and Corentin saw to it that it would stay that way.

It was a long road to find peace, but Taylor would live with the choices he’d made, however cruel. He could never get his brother back. See him smile. Hear his laughter. All he could think of was that Atticus was finally in the Storyteller’s embrace and no longer suffering with the demons in his head.

The cost haunted Taylor. Even on his own special day, Atticus would remain a dark shadow over it all.

Taylor gripped his bouquet tighter and squared his shoulders again. He was raining on his own damned wedding day by brooding on the loss of half his family. He couldn’t dwell on these things. It was Taylor’s turn to live happily ever after, and, Storyteller-fucking-dammit, he was going to be happy.

He would survive the travesty in which Enchant tradition insisted that, despite being a male princess, he was still a princess and must carry a bouquet. At least they didn’t make him wear a damned dress. He was okay with the flowers in the end. Hell, his damned magic summoned pink primroses. Vines of the dainty baby-pink flowers spilled from the ruffled organza and over his fingers. He breathed in the sweet scent, letting the calm wash over him. Zee purred her contentment at her dragoon master.

“Not too late for a pee break,” Ringo whispered to him. “Really freak ’em out, you know?”

Taylor snorted. “Douchebag,” he chided, but his stomach clenched. “Although….”

“Buck it up, boyo. No barfing or wetting yourself in a fifteen-minute ceremony,” Ringo warned him.

“Is fainting okay? Fainting’s fair. I’m a princess. That’s totally an acceptable thing.”

“No fainting because I say so,” Ringo commanded. “Now swooning? Swooning’s okay.”

“That’s the same thing.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

Ringo crossed his arms and flapped his wings in irritation. “Look it up. Ten bucks says swooning’s different from fainting.”

“You, sir, are full of shit.”

“You, my dear Princess, are missing the wedding march.”

“What?” Taylor gaped.

Ringo nodded through the open doors to the chapel within. The rows and rows of wedding guests stared back at him, packed shoulder to shoulder, as if every Enchant in the world turned out for this moment. Taylor didn’t recall sending out so many invitations. How did they send out the invitations? Did Ringo make an e-card and spam everyone on his magical contact list when Taylor wasn’t looking?

The guests’ eager smiles mixed with curiosity.

Taylor stood petrified. His bouquet shivered in his grasp. He swallowed the saltiness collecting in his mouth. He really was going to hurl. Right now. On the happiest day of his life.

The wedding march played on and reached the final harmonious note before fading into awkward silence.

The guests stared. Lady Mary of the Contrarians coughed demurely behind her fist.

The wedding march began again, and the smiles became expressions of confusion and sheepish grins.

“Come on, boyo,” Ringo grunted, taking his place at the small of Taylor’s back, trying to push him forward. His wings beat furiously as he tried to make Taylor budge.

“Taylor,” Aliss Magnus said as she held out her elbow.

Taylor startled. He hadn’t noticed Aliss had been standing in front of him, waiting to walk him down the aisle.

She smiled patiently, her wine-colored eyes speaking of kindness a stark contrast to her hard-nosed exterior as the reigning Queen of Hearts. Time had been kind to her. It had softened her rough edges, her hurt and anger. She had settled comfortably into a capable leader of the Library. Taylor couldn’t believe someone like her, with all her responsibilities, had taken time out to be his maid of honor. She even wore a baby-pink bridesmaid dress. At least it wasn’t ugly; Taylor wouldn’t stand for something that embarrassing. The bridesmaid fittings seemed like a blur. He laughed about it, that the Storytellerdamn traditions still insisted on calling his wedding entourage bridesmaids.

The wedding march started for a third time. The organist pressed harder on the keys, possibly suggesting a bit of urgency.

“You can do this,” Aliss said softly.

He nodded and hooked his elbow in hers. Taylor brushed his long dark bangs from his forehead, careful not to jostle the silver-and-pink bejeweled primrose clip over his ear.

With a step through the threshold, the guests erupted into thundering applause. Together Taylor and Aliss walked arm in arm, and Ringo fluttered along behind them, throwing up his arms to incite more cheers.

Taylor’s confidence grew with each step. Aliss was right. He could do this. It’s not like he hadn’t been waiting for this moment since his days in Syracuse University. He didn’t plan on it ever happening. He’d had too much going on in his head at the time. Also he was too busy—or not—flunking his way through a double major in Criminal Justice and Theater. More like he excelled at Theater, because acting was about bullshitting his way through life. Criminal Justice was nothing like those cutting-edge crime dramas with overbudgeted CGI would have one believe.

The train from Taylor’s long white coat slid behind him down the aisle, and the pink lining shimmered in the light. He would never escape the pink. It wasn’t a color as so much as it was a part of him. From his pink eyes to his magic, if he hadn’t known better, he’d swear he could bleed pink.

“One foot in front of the other,” Ringo whispered as he perched on Taylor’s shoulder. “You got this.”

Taylor barely held back his grin. His anxiety flowed through an easy transition into joy. This moment was happening.

Corentin stood at the altar, and Taylor caught his expression of a breath hitching in his throat.

Taylor’s cheeks heated as Aliss released his elbow. She nodded to Corentin and presented his princess-to-be. Taylor ran his teeth over his bottom lip and assumed his place at Corentin’s side.

Corentin leaned forward to murmur in Taylor’s ear, “You look amazing.”

Taylor smirked. “Thank Storyteller you took a shower.”

“Butt monkey,” Corentin said as he maintained his bright, polite smile.

“Ass breath,” Taylor said with a similar fake smile.

Kids.” Ringo scowled.

Corentin pressed his lips into a tight line, his eyes going wide. He pointed childishly at Taylor as if to indicate blame.

Ringo slapped his forehead. “Ay yai yai.”

Taylor discreetly cleared his throat, then shyly gazed at Corentin. After all their years together, they were finally making honest men out of each other. The proposal was just a hazy dream. Taylor didn’t recall how it happened, just along the way, one of them said yes.

Taylor had grown into his lanky body, no longer looking like a boy, but a man with a strong jaw and muscle worthy of being the fearsome Sleeping Beauty the Dragon Slayer. He looked like a threat, no longer like a wet kitten with a bad attitude.

As Taylor had matured into a man, Corentin had matured in an entirely different direction. Bit by bit, his dark, sandy hair became a little grayer, and the scruff on his chin started matching. He had become the distinguished old huntsman who had seen the worst in people, and was the worst of them all, but ultimately redeemed by the love of a young princess. He was a proud old wolf in relation to Taylor’s strong, capable alpha.

Mentally, both of them were still immature boys who cracked jokes about the sizes of their dicks.

The preacher, a jolly old elf, laughed merrily over the noise. His large, round belly shook like a bowlful of jelly. “Are we ready?” he asked, winking at the pair.

They nodded, taking each other’s hands.

“We’re getting married,” Corentin said with a smile.

Taylor smirked. “Regrettably.”

“Dearly beloved and honored guests,” St. Nicolai began. “We are gathered here today to witness the storybook union of Princess Taylor Andrew Hatfield and Huntsman Henri Corentin Devereaux.”

Taylor’s knees trembled, and Corentin tightened his grip on Taylor’s wrists.

“No fainting, yeah?” Corentin said under his breath.

Taylor nodded, unable to make words. His confidence wavered.

“Stay with me. You’re the strong one,” Corentin said.

Taylor’s anxiety evaporated, and he stood tall. Living happily ever after with Corentin was the greatest wish his heart had ever made. He never wanted to wake up.

 

 

Aboard the Pacific Princess Cruise Ship

Somewhere in the South Pacific….

Taylor couldn’t wait more than five seconds after Corentin locked the master suite door before he was upon him.

The cruise ship rocked with the rolling seas, causing Corentin to dance back with Taylor in his arms. Together they crashed against the wet bar. Corentin turned and set Taylor on the bar top. The dinner conversation had been lively and polite as they sat family-style with the other cruise guests. Taylor was the darling among the little old ladies. While he had slipped his foot out of his shoe and was fondling Corentin’s crotch with his toes, both of them kept straight faces and burst into laughter on cue with every pulse of arousal.

Taylor clawed at his tie as he claimed Corentin’s mouth with a hungry growl. He tasted like the brandy from afterdinner drinks. And Taylor had enough sense to recognize he was the least sober of the pair. Corentin could hold his liquor with the best of them. After his sixth shot of straight tequila, Taylor had been long gone. Corentin had graduated from cheap beer to fine brandy.

Corentin drank like a gentleman.

Taylor drank like a frat boy.

Returning the kiss with just as much ferocity, Corentin yanked his belt and tugged it free.

Taylor moaned into his mouth as he tore open the button and fly of his dress slacks Taylor had already been reaching for his hard cock, but Corentin hissed in warning.

They kissed again, devouring each other’s breath and each other’s souls, if it were possible. Corentin snaked his fingers through Taylor’s dark hair and gave a sharp yank, pulling him back.

Taylor gritted his teeth through the pain, his eyes feral with need.

“You better not be touching yourself,” Corentin admonished him. He licked his bottom lip. “You want it hard, yeah?” His tone was low and breathy.

“Storyteller, I want you to fuck me,” Taylor groaned and kissed Corentin again. Their lips slid together as Taylor gripped fistfuls of Corentin’s cotton dress shirt and ripped it open. Buttons popped from their stitching and bounced across the cabin floor.

Taylor bucked against him, their mutual arousals grinding together. He bit hard on Corentin’s lower lip. “I love it when you lose control.”

“You know how hard it is for me to keep it when you push me?” Corentin warned, cupping Taylor’s ass. He slammed his hips against Taylor’s in return, banging Taylor’s lower back against the liquor cabinet.

They kissed, possessing each other. Corentin was his. Every part of him. From his heart to his name, Taylor would spend every day celebrating the journey that led them here—the dark and dangerous path they traveled and never wanted to find their way back from.

 

 

Papeete, Tahiti

Off the Map….

“Hey…,” Corentin whispered hoarsely as Taylor lay entwined with him in the bed. “The sun’s rising.” He kissed the top of Taylor’s messy hair.

Taylor murmured as he rubbed at the ligatures on his wrists and then the series of bites on his neck. Some of them had begun to scab over. He slipped from the bed, then hobbled to the sliding glass door. He breathed in the salty Tahitian air.

Ringo and Honeysuckle spared no expense in getting them a dream honeymoon. The white sandy beaches glowed in the rose-and-gold tones of the morning light. The turquoise ocean lapped in lazy waves across the shore.

Taylor popped his back and fanned his fingers over Corentin’s caning marks from last night. Corentin had been the roughest yet with him, and he relished the moment of exquisite pain. Corentin had a safe outlet for giving in to his darkness, and Taylor savored every mark, scratch, and bite.

Corentin owned him, and Taylor knew he would never escape the huntsman. Nor would he want to. Once Taylor had a bite of that poison apple, he was never going back.

Release Date August 19th! Pre-Order Now from Dreampinner Press!

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