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Authors: Rhiannon Thomas

A Wicked Thing

BOOK: A Wicked Thing
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DEDICATION

For Phoebe

who shares every story

and read this one first.

CONTENTS
ONE

SHE WOKE UP WITH A KISS
.

Not a birds-singing, heart-stopping, world-ending sort of kiss. A light spot of pressure on her lips.

Aurora opened her eyes.

A stranger loomed above her. A boy. He stared at her. “I did it,” he said. “I actually did it.”

Aurora screamed.

The intruder jerked backward, and Aurora kicked out, scrambling to the other side of the bed. Her feet hit the floor, and her knees buckled. Her left hand slammed onto the stone. Sunlight poured through the windows, stinging her eyes.

“I'm sorry.” The boy's words rushed together. “Are you all right?”

There was a stranger. A strange boy. In her bedroom. Kissing her while she slept. And then . . . apologizing?

“Princess?”

She stared down at her hand. Her elbow shook. What did you do when apologetic strangers broke into your room and kissed you? It seemed important, somehow, to pick the right response, to behave the way her mother would expect, but her mind was a haze, and the ground seemed to vibrate under her fingertips. Or maybe that was her.

“I'm Prince Rodric,” the stranger said, when she did not reply. “Son of King John the Third, and future king of—” He broke off. “I mean—Rodric. You can call me Rodric. If you like.”

She would not face an intruder from the floor. Aurora grabbed the edge of the bed and pulled herself to her feet. The world shuddered and lurched. “I don't care who you are,” she said. “What are you doing in my room?”

He stood completely still, like a child struggling not to startle a baby deer—or afraid that the deer might be a bear after all, and bite off his hand before he could blink. “Well, I'm—I'm here to save you.”

“To save me?”

The boy continued to stare. He did not look particularly threatening, with his gangling limbs, gaping expression, and
light brown hair that stuck out of the top of his head, but despite his endearing appearance, he was clearly insane. Aurora took a shaky step backward. This time she kept her footing. “I'm calling my guards.”

“Wait.” The boy—Rodric—moved toward her, arm outstretched. His knees thudded against the side of the bed. “I mean—do you not remember?”

“Remember what?” She took another step backward, but her legs swayed underneath her, and she stumbled. Her dress weighed her down—not a nightgown, she realized, but a heavy, silken thing, as though she were dressed for a ball and had drifted off to sleep along the way. Numbness prickled across her skin.

“Please be careful,” he said. “You must be weak.”

“Oh, must I?” she asked, stepping backward again, her hand pressed against the wall to hold herself steady. “And why would that be?”

“Because—because of the spell.”

She stopped. “You cast a spell on me?” Panic rose in her throat, freezing her in place, but she forced it back. Raised her chin slightly in defiance. She hoped he would not notice how it shook. “You work for the witch Celestine?”

“No!” He scrambled around to her side of the bed. In response, she slid sideways, close to the wall, trying to keep the distance between them. “No, nothing like that! I came—I was trying to break the spell. I was—I was helping.”

Nothing could break the spell, except waiting. Certainly not awkward strangers who said they were princes and did not realize that you were only meant to kiss princesses when they were awake. She stepped closer to the door, but her foot caught on the hem of her skirt, and she slammed into the wall again. It was the ball gown, she realized, that her mother had ordered specially for the night of her eighteenth birthday, for the celebration that would mark her freedom. Freedom from magic, freedom from the curse. But if it was daylight outside . . .

“The ball . . .” she said. “It was last night. Does that mean—” She had reached her eighteenth birthday, she had escaped, she was free.

“You pricked your finger,” Rodric said, and he sounded hopeful, like he thought she finally understood him. “You fell asleep.”

She could not remember. She had been preparing for the ball, so happy that the curse was finally broken, and then . . . something was tugging at the corners of her memory. Singing. She remembered singing, and a light, moving upward from a tower that had no up left to go. A woman, her features blurred. And the slightest point of pressure on her fingertip.

She looked down at her hand. A bubble of blood rested on the pad of her index finger. She brushed it with her thumb. Red smeared across her skin. “Why did you kiss me?”

“The—the story,” he said, as though that meant anything at all. She stared at him, shaking her head slowly back and forth.
“The kiss of true love,” he added, when she didn't reply. “Whoever wakes the princess with a kiss—they're destined to get married and live happily ever after.”

True love? Destiny? Perhaps he was a madman after all. “I do not even know you,” she said.

“But the story—”

“What story?” she asked. “What are you talking about?”

“The story of you, Princess,” he said. “The sleeping beauty.”

BOOK: A Wicked Thing
11.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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