A Beauty and the Beast Story
BOOK 1 in The Fairytale Quartet
Contemporary Adult Romance
Orginally published July 2017
85,640 words, 296 pages
2-Flame Sensuality Rating
"Do you know how to get to the rose garden?"
"No, you can't go there. A monster lives there."
Shaw Hollander is desperate.
Broke, unemployed, and determined to help his ailing mother, he falls on the good graces of a wealthy benefactor who is willing to give Shaw a job at his mansion in order to pay off his mother's debts. Suddenly finding himself surrounded by lavish riches, he has no idea what his duties truly entail until he's sent to the rose garden and meets the tragically mutilated Isobel.
This Beauty and the Beast story holds true to the core of the fable while shaking off the element of fantasy and dragging it into present day reality. Shaw and Isobel are ready to let you climb into their four-wheel-drive pickup and take a ride with them into their version of happily ever after, but only if you first dare to gaze upon the monster among the roses.
I nervously twisted my ball cap between my hands, the frayed bill skimming across my calloused knuckles with each pass. The room where I waited was bigger than my entire apartment, and the seat on which I gingerly perched myself probably cost more than everything I owned.
It smelled rich in here. Like money. Like the walls had been papered in fresh, crisp hundred-dollar bills straight from the bank. I glanced between my knees to my shoes, hoping I hadn't knocked any dirt onto the opaque marble floor, only to discover a small clump of dried mud did rest by my right sneaker. Shit. I quick-ly kicked it under the chair to hide the evidence just as the door beside me opened.
A gray-headed woman in a blue pantsuit—the same one I'd spoken to, announcing myself when I'd arrived twenty minutes earlier—peered out. "Mr. Nash is ready to meet with you."
Feeling caught in the act, I stopped messing with the dirt clod and jerked to my feet, my face flushing hotly. I started to slide my hat back on to hide what must be a nasty case of hat hair, only to wonder if it would appear more respectful to keep a hat off when meeting a man such as Henry Nash. After hesitating a good five seconds, unsure of what to do, I pulled the hat on. This was who I was. Putting on airs felt de-ceitful.
Nodding to the secretary to let her know I was ready, I followed her inside the lion's den, only to slow to an intimidated stop just inside the doorway. If I'd been daunted by the opulence of the waiting room, the interior of Henry Nash's office blew me away. Huge mural-sized paintings would've given the museum effect if the slate-gray chairs in front of a colossal black granite and silver desk hadn't screamed corpo-rate office. I was afraid to move and track more mud across the floor. Hell, breathing in this place felt taboo.
I didn't belong here. What had I been thinking to schedule a meeting with the Henry Nash? He was go-ing to laugh me from his museum office before I could even start begging.
The massive chair behind the desk revolved to face me just as the man planted in it hung up the phone on which he'd been talking. Then he stood.
"Ah, Mr. Hollander." Rounding his desk, he strode toward me where I stood petrified in the door-way. "It's nice to finally meet you. Your mother's said only good things."
The mention of my mom caused the ball of dread in my throat to harden and cut off my air.
"How is she?" he asked as he held out a hand for me to shake. The question was pleasant and polite. The look in his eyes was kind and interested. The en-tire way he'd come to me, not made me approach him, was just—I wanted to shake my head, confused.
I'd built this man up in my mind as a rich, heart-less beast who ate baby kittens for breakfast and flambéed the weak and needy for dinner. He stomped on dreams and mocked the poor, gaining power with each tear he forced to fall. The overdue notices that littered our mail with increasing regularity, demand-ing money, only seemed to enhance my impression of him.
But here he stood, a normal mortal with a slight paunch to the gut and thinning hair on top, and…and he smiled at me as if he were genuinely pleased to meet me.
Flustered, I didn't know what to say. What to do.
"She…uh…she's…" Quickly, I reached out to shake with him. His skin was warm, dry—human—and his grip was sincere. "She's not well," I blurted.
Damn, I'd hoped to work into that topic subtly.
"Oh?" Mr. Nash tipped his head to the side, con-cern marring his eyebrows.
"Yeah, she…" I ripped my hat off and began to fidget with it again.
"Here." Mr. Nash stretched out a hand, inviting me further into the office. "Let's sit and discuss it. Miss Givens…" He nodded to the secretary, and she left the room, shutting me inside the grandiose office alone…with the one man who could destroy my mother.
Palms sweating, I wiped them on my thighs and followed him to a chair placed in front of his desk. In-stead of moving back around behind the table, he sat in the other seat next to mine. It didn't put me at ease, as I think was his intent; I only felt closer to the chop-ping block now.