Beauty and the Beast: The Only One Who Didn't Run Away Read online

  To all the readers who asked for more

  Twice Upon a Time books. This one’s for you.


  Title Page


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six

  Chapter Forty-Seven

  Chapter Forty-Eight

  Chapter Forty-Nine

  Chapter Fifty

  Chapter Fifty-One

  About the Author


  Today started poorly and got even worse. It is now nightfall, and I am certain even the village’s dung heap cleaner would not want to change places with me. I should have known the winds of good tidings were not blowing my way the moment I laid eyes on the baker’s new apprentice, a boy a few years my senior who I have never seen in the village before. Our kitchen maid usually does the errands, but she is visiting her family today, so I went to fetch our order of barley rolls.

  I do not often venture out into town alone, for Papa worries and his worrying makes me nervous. But this morning I made sure to hold my head high and to look more confident than I felt. I ignored anyone who called out for me to buy whatever they were selling, and made sure to step carefully over the waste constantly being tossed out the windows to the street below. Part of me wanted to take off running in the fields behind the village church and forget the barley rolls. I never feel nervous when I run. But that would be unladylike. I have not been allowed to run freely for years now.

  When I arrived at the bakery, the baker — a kind man who always smells like fresh bread — greeted me by name. One of three things happens when someone hears my name for the first time. The worst is when they laugh. The second worst is when they start to laugh but quickly turn it into a cough so as not to appear rude. Lastly, if they are a halfway decent sort, they will squint at my face as though searching for some prettiness that perhaps they missed initially. Upon finding none, they will then say something like, “Have you seen the new juggler performing in the town square? Such talent!”

  No one, in all my twelve and three-quarter years, has ever said that the name Beauty suits me.

  I blame my mother (may her soul rest in peaceful slumber amidst fields of wildflowers). She used her very last breath to bestow my name upon me. If I were the betting type, I would say she was more likely referring to the beauty shining forth from the gates of heaven — which were no doubt opening wide in welcome — than to the infant held up before her, red-faced and sporting a nose that leaned a bit too far to the left. My nose, thankfully, has righted itself as I have grown. Mostly.

  When the baker said my name, his new apprentice turned to look. I figured he would choose the first option and laugh. He had the type of sharp chin and thin lips that indicate a certain meanness of spirit. But he did not laugh. Rather, he surprised me with a response I had not heard before. He tipped an imaginary hat at me and said, “Good day, Beauty, my name is Handsome!” And then he laughed. The baker gave him a sharp jab in the ribs and waved off my coin as he handed me my sack of rolls.

  I cannot tell if my face flushed from the heat of the baker’s huge oven, or the hurtful words. Likely both. I know the teasing should not bother me, for I have many good qualities. My sister, Clarissa, insists no one makes better ginger candies. And I can outrun a hare, not that there is much use for this skill unless one is chasing hares. (Which I am not allowed to do anymore after chasing away the Easter hare three years ago.) Plus, no one in our village reads as well as I, including the monks at the monastery, and they read all day long.

  But the teasing bothers me nonetheless.

  I wish my name had gone to Clarissa, nearly three years my senior, who truly is beautiful. You know the type — hair soft as the finest silk from across the sea, round blue eyes like robins’ eggs, and a forehead so high she has been mistaken for royalty. She is also sweet and gentle and does not furrow her brow by thinking of serious things. All of the boys in town want her hand in marriage, but she turns them down. Though she cares deeply about maintaining (or bettering) her social standing as the daughter of a successful merchant, Clarissa is holding out for love.

  Where she is a romantic, I am a realist. Romantic love is something found only in the books Papa sells to the lords and ladies of the kingdom for a tidy profit. I should know, for I have read many of them. My head is full of stories from the books Papa buys and sells without ever opening the cover himself. Clarissa’s head is full of purple silk gowns and dances and handsome troubadours playing the lute. One day soon, Papa shall tire of Clarissa’s silliness and will marry her off to whomever he deems her best match. Although the thought of marriage currently makes me shudder, neither my sister nor I shall marry for love. It is simply not the way of things.

  Clarissa insists I should not look at life so bleakly, for it makes me seem unpleasant and no one will want to be in my company. She says that if I took the time to comb my hair and powder my cheeks and stopped wearing Papa’s old tunics and breeches, people might actually smile when they hear my name. She may be right, but I do not intend to find out.

  Much to my surprise, being insulted by the apprentice turned out to be the high point of my day. For sometime between this afternoon when my sister lit the hearth to stave off the first autumn chill, and sunset when I returned home from my errands, our house burned to the ground.

  Darkness. Cold. Silence, but for the fearful panting in my ear. The breath warming my ear is not mine. My own mouth is closed tight against the cold air and the tiny winged bugs that surround us. My vision is clear, though, impeded only by the thickness of the forest.

  “Jump!” the voice screams. So I spring up, easily clearing the top of a ditch. We run deeper into the forest, thick trees ominous and unyielding, the ground hard and unforgiving on my bare feet. I do not know why my feet are bare. My mother, the queen, would never allow me to step foot outside the castle without boots on, even when the sun is high and hot in the sky. Yet I clearly feel the dirt and rocks and twigs beneath me.

  “Duck!” the voice yells. I try to twist my head to see to whom the voice belongs. But it is dark, so dark.


  I have waited too long to obey. The top of my head crashes into the branc