Once upon a time, there was a man named Gerard and a woman named Betty. He was Kingdom’s most notorious Lothario. She was a librarian from Earth. Magic brought them together. And a love was born that created one of the most enduring fairy tales of all time. This was where their story should have ended. Happily ever after forever and ever…
But that same magic that brought them together would also cruelly rip them apart. Causing them both to forget the other and the daughter they’d created out of true love. Nothing can save them or their love except for one very reluctant hero.
No one could ever accuse Rumpelstiltskin of being a good man, but the dark magician will do anything—even kill—to set right what’s been made wrong. You see the daughter Gerard and Betty forgot, her name was Shayera, and she was Rumpel’s truest love. The dark prince will stop at nothing to bring her back. Nothing…
The Dark Kings, Tome 2: The Jaded King
I watched her, memorizing again every dip, every hollow, every brushstroke of perfection that created her face. The perfect Cupid’s-bow lip that formed words that sounded like magic on the winds. The way her eyes sparkled and danced when she grinned. The way that canary-yellow gown wrapped like second skin around her lithe, willowy frame.
There could never be anyone more lovely than my Belle.
For years, my infatuation with her stunning beauty and vivacious laughter had only grown. We’d been raised in the same little hamlet together. I’d watched her bloom from a fresh-faced girl to a woman more beautiful than all the stars in the heavens.
I tapped my fingers on the rough wooden edge of the bar top, my chilled apple ale long forgotten and warm by now. Belle sang at the top of her lungs as Ferdinand played the slightly grimace-inducing and off-key relic of a piano.
But I did not mind the occasional ear-splitting note when her angelic voice held me so enraptured. My gods, she was lovely. Her peach toned skin was all soft and glowy from just a bit too much drink. Her amber-colored eyes were a tad on the glassy side, and in between arias, she’d begun devolving into a fit of braying laughter.
I twisted my lips. Maybe it was time someone helped her home? She had been here many hours already.
But, being the beauty of this realm, there was no shortage of men plying her with drink. I gnashed my teeth as an orange-haired arse, who probably had no hair on his balls yet, rushed the stage, thrusting yet another tankard of ale at her.
The gentle touch of a hand on mine broke my concentration. Only then did I realize the white-knuckled grip I held on the tabletop. Glowering, I moved my hand to my lap.
“Gerard, stare at her any harder, and she might catch on fire.”
Snarling at my impertinent friend, I shook my head. “The irony reeks coming from you, chérie. At least Belle knows where my intentions lie. Does David even know you exist yet? Twenty years you’ve pined over that salaud.”
I spat on the ground by my foot, angry every time I thought of that tow-headed bastard who’d made my friend’s life a living hell of tears and agony.
Her bright blue eyes widened as she gasped, clutching at her soft, pretty white dress. “That was low, even from you.”
I sighed, shoving twin fingers through my thick and unruly dark hair. “Forgive me. I am tired and an absolute brute tonight. You did not deserve my words.”
Once, long ago, I’d fallen in love with Brigitte. I was five and she two. I’d sworn I would love her forever. And I had, until the day she’d looked upon David Charrier and never again looked back at me.
I was eight. It was devastating. Of course, a few days later, I met Belle, and I fell in love again, truly for the last time.
She was everything to me.
My fealty to Belle hadn’t ever wavered since. And in this unrequited and painful love, Brigitte and I had bonded even deeper. We both knew the sting of it. But I was bound and determined to change it all today.
For years, I’d been asking Belle to become mine. And for years, she’d turned me down, stating that I was a vagabond, penniless, and not serious enough for what she needed in a man.
So I’d gone and joined the army. I’d risen in rank and saved nearly every bit of coin I’d ever made. I could now buy my Belle a respectable home. Nothing ostentatious or grandiose. Sadly, I would never reach that kind of wealth. I wasn’t what one would call terribly bright, even on the best of days, but I wasn’t a complete fool either.
I was strong, and I had my looks.
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