Authors: Nicole Dreadful
The next day the manor house seemed as empty as when she had first arrived with her father, a year and a half earlier. Though she ran her fingers along the intricate wallpaper, she could detect no hidden opening where the corridor leading to Caledon's rooms had been.
On the second day, when she could not find the rose arbor in the gardens after several hours' wandering, Felicity felt a chill in her heart. She went to the portrait gallery and stared at the paintings.
"You must forgive him," she said to the woman she'd christened Aunt Margaret. "He is not what he was, and yet still you torture him."
"He tortures himself," a woman's voice said. Felicity looked around, but could see no one else in the room.
"Then he must forgive himself."
"He must learn to live with himself."
That night, Felicity dreamed of Caledon's picture in the portrait gallery. She watched as his face turned into that of the Beast and back again, over and over. As his features melted and swirled, only his eyes remained constant: yellow and anguished.
On the third day, Caledon reappeared, sitting in his accustomed chair in the study after dinner. His gaze was fixed on the fire and he refused to meet Felicity's eyes, even when she moved to stand in front of him.
"I was wrong," she said. "You are still a Beast."
She saw him stiffen, but he did not shift his position.
"But," she continued, "you are a man, too."
Caledon said nothing, but now he looked up at her, his slit pupils wide in the low light.
"You used to ask me if I was frightened of you, until I said no, but it was a lie. I was always frightened, but I learned not be fearful, to control the fear inside me. I believe you can be a man, though you hold the Beast within you."
"Felicity," he said. "Why do you do this?"
"Because I love you too well to leave you," she said. "I cannot run from you."
"Nor I from you," Caledon said, rubbing at his temples. "Though I have tried."
Felicity held out her hands to him, knowing he would not reach for her himself. "May I kiss you?" she asked.
His eyebrows shot up in surprise, but he recovered quickly. "Yes." She leaned forward to put her lips to his, welcoming the taste of his mouth. Again she caught his summer scent, and realized it was the same as the gardens, warm and earthy.
This time he didn't pull away. When he broke the kiss, it was to whisper in her ear. "May I touch you?" His warm breath sent a shiver of pleasure over her skin.
"You may," she said, and he pulled her into his lap. Felicity thrilled to the long awaited touch as his strong arms encircled her and she leaned against his chest, lifting her face for another kiss. It was different than being touched by the fairies, feeling his hands moving over her body, having his body to press hers against. Caledon's mouth moved to her earlobe, his whiskered chin brushing across her skin, and she tilted her head back with a soft moan.
When their mouths met again, he pressed her fiercely to him, his tongue thrusting past her lips. "Gentle," she said breathlessly, and he released her instantly, looking contrite. "Don't stop," she clarified, setting his hands back on her waist. "Just not so hard."
He nodded, though she still saw a wild look in his strange eyes. Felicity slipped off his lap, leading him to the lush rug before the fire. They sat down together, to kiss again, and she ran her hands over his chest, pulling at his shirt until he broke away to pull it off. She saw the muscles beneath his skin, and the soft line of hair leading downward. She trailed her fingers along it to the swelling bulge of his pants while he leaned forward, or perhaps she lay back before him, until she was beneath his body.
Caledon kissed down her neck, leaving a tingling trail along her skin. As his mouth moved lower, she thought he would pull her breasts free, but he sat back, put his hands to the bodice of her dress and tore it open. Felicity gasped at the sound of the rending fabric and Caledon looked at her.
In the low light of the fire, his pupils were so wide and black that the yellow irises had almost disappeared. "I never promised," he said, bending forward to taste her skin with gentle nips and kisses, "to be gentle," his tongue swirling over her exposed nipple, "with your clothing." He pulled out his belt knife, and sliced delicately between two ribs of her corset, then tore the layered fabric beneath it, pulling it apart all the way to the hem.
Felicity lay naked in the ruins of her dress as he stood to unfasten his pants. She was trembling, though she hardly knew if it was with pleasure or fear. She could feel the fiery trails his hands and lips had traced on her skin, and the line on her belly where the point of his knife had pressed through her dress. She looked up at him, unsure of what he would do next, but tingling with anticipation.
Caledon was watching her, too, the firelight playing over the lines of his body, his arousal clear. He was waiting for permission again, she realized as she slipped off the useless sleeves of her dress, and for a moment she was overwhelmed by the power she had over him, and the responsibility it implied.
She opened her arms to him, an answer to the question in his eyes, and he knelt between her legs. He kissed his way up her body, supporting himself with one hand while the other ran over her skin. Again she thought how different it was to feel the touch of a hand with the body of a man behind it. His weight on top of her was pleasant, and she pulled his head to hers, eager to taste his lips again. He moved a hand between her legs, spreading her open to meet him.
She cried out as he entered her and Caledon froze momentarily, but she was already wrapping her legs around his hips, pulling him in deeper, feeling the way their two bodies fit together. If this was horizontal dancing, Felicity thought, she'd be happy to dance all night, feeling his hips rock into hers. She sought his mouth again, curling her fingers through his hair.
Already she could feel the familiar wave of pleasure building inside, and the new pressure of Caledon, stretching the narrow passageway at her very center. He responded to her need with his own, and in every thrust she knew the ache he must have felt, unable to touch her at the very moments when she had desperately wanted to be touched. But that was over, and now his body covered hers, filling all her senses with mounting pleasure. Felicity lifted her hips, matching his breathless rhythm until the sensation overwhelmed her, and the wave broke. Her cries sent him over the edge and she felt the shudder running through his body in echo of her own as he collapsed on her breast.
They lay side by side before the fire and she watched his pupils return to a more normal size. He reached out gently to stroke her hair. "My beauty," he said softly. "My happiness."
A Second Wedding
When the magic mirror brought news of Angeline's wedding, Felicity visited her family again. Her father and the others were overjoyed to see her still hale and healthy. As before, Felicity had brought a treasure chest of wedding gifts, so that Angeline did not feel any less lucky than Mariela had been. Felicity did not tell them of the transformation that "Aunt Margaret" had undergone, nor did her family ask about the Beast.
"We should be planning your wedding next," Mariela sighed one morning as they prepared to go out.
Felicity only smiled, but Elliot, who had been watching them primp from the doorway, said, "We will be planning your wedding. Father's business has been profitable, and we'll soon be able to repay everything Aunt Margaret gave us, with interest. Then you can come home to stay."
Felicity could only gape at him while Angeline clapped her hands joyfully. Meanwhile, Mariela was eyeing her youngest sister with a skeptical eye. "Come here, Beauty," she said. "Surely we can lace you up a bit tighter." She tugged at the strings of the corset.
Felicity cried out in pain. "Be gentle!"
"Don't be a goose," Mariela said. "You look as if you were with child."
"I am with child," Felicity replied, placing her hands protectively on her belly.
Now it was her siblings whose mouths fell open. Angeline, who had already been laced into a wasp-waisted form, fainted.
"By the Beast?" Elliot asked, shocked out of euphemistic reference to imaginary aunts.
"His name is Caledon," Felicity said.
Elliot let loose a string of words most commonly used by the stevedores on the docks, while Angeline squeaked, "Suppose you have kittens!"
"My child will be as human as Elliot's son," Felicity said.
"You come and go by magic," Elliot said, "so I will not ask how you know of Amir. But you cannot expect Father to take this well."
"Then don't tell him," Felicity pleaded, "at least not until after the wedding." After some argument, she was able to convince her siblings not to worry their aging father, and had pulled out the details of their plan to free her from the Beast.
"But it was never true that Father sold me," she said. "I went of my own free will, and I stayed of my own free will."
Standing in a circle around her, Elliot, Mariela and Angeline only shook their heads, and Felicity saw them exchanging sad looks. She reached behind her to pull at the laces of the dress. "I don't like this color," she said. "I'll wear a different one."
Angeline's wedding came and went, but Felicity's family did not disperse, and even Daniel was there when they gathered in the sitting room. Felicity could see her father gathering himself to make an announcement.
"Dear Father," she said, taking his hands in hers before he could begin. "You are twice lucky, to have made a fortune to leave your sons, and to have found a pleasant home for each of your daughters. You see every day the life you have made for Elliot and Daniel, and for Mariela and Angeline, and soon you must come to visit with me and Aunt Margaret." The merchant nodded throughout this little speech, but his expression soon changed as Felicity continued, "but you must not call him Margaret, of course, for his name is Caledon. You must think of him like your other sons-in-law, and visit us in the spring to meet our first child."
At these last words, the old man grew pale and began to moan. "Oh, my poor little Beauty, we are too late to save you."
Felicity stood, and would have answered indignantly, but she remembered that her father and the rest still thought of Caledon as a fearsome monster. "There's no need to save me, Father, for I am content as I am," she said. "Only promise me that you'll come to visit."
The merchant only closed his eyes and shook his head stubbornly, but Elliot said, "Father, you loved us all so dearly as children; you can't cut yourself off from your grandchildren, no matter what you might think of their second parents."
"Don't bring your bastard into this," the merchant said.
"My son," Elliot said, the color rising in his cheeks, but his father had already turned back to Felicity.
"I promised your mother I would take care of you," he said. "And I have failed." He stood, waving Mariela away when she came to his side, and left the room.
His children looked at each other in silence, and Felicity could not prevent her tears from seeping through.
"You can't go back to Aunt Margaret's," Mariela said. "To be there alone, in your condition!"
"I want to go back, and I have to go back. Even if you tried to keep me, he would come for me."
"Talitha could go with you," Elliot said. "And my son. If he wants to see one grandchild, he'll have to meet them both."
And so, when the merchant finally visited the next year, it was his daughter who swung open the gate, holding his little granddaughter with one arm, and her curly haired nephew by the hand. The silent, sumptuous rooms of the manor filled with children's laughter, and as the invisible fairies wandered off, human servants took their place, until there was nothing left of the enchantment except the cat-eyed master of the house, looking down from a portrait on the wall as his story was told to his grandchildren's grandchildren.
I know this story's true
As I have told it you.
I hid beneath the bed,
And heard all that they said.
I grew up reading huge tomes of fairy and folk tale collections, not all of which had been edited for children. In these stories, princes and rescued maidens slept with a sword between them in the bed to ensure chastity, Sleeping Beauty gave birth to twins before she woke, and a witch's beautiful daughters had tooth-filled vaginas. Now I'm returning to fairy tales and exploring their sexual aspects.
Beauty and the Beast
is the first in a series;
Little Red Riding Hood
is up next.
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