As per popular poll results . . .
A Short Story Prequel to
The Beauty Thief
Here begins a prequel to The Beauty Thief. This is just a fun little story that I’ve been thinking about, something that is related to, but not an excerpt from The Beauty Thief. It is a back story of Caityn’s mother. It has not been edited as a book sees editing, so I hope you can overlook any minor mistakes along the way. It’s literally a first draft story, just for fun, for my would-be readers and friends. Please feel free to comment anything at all, be it thoughts on story, characters, plot, feel, imagery, editing, writing in general, corrections, whatever. Mostly, please enjoy!
Othniel stood in front of his dressing mirror and rubbed his chin, feeling the tiny prickles of new beard growth. Should he shave again?
“What does it matter?” Alone, he collapsed into a chair by the hearth, his thoughts heavy. Why could his wedding day not be like one of the guardsmen’s? The need for royal marriages to be arranged for necessities other than love was a reality that Othniel understood but didn’t appreciate.
He and Ismene had danced together several times during the wedding celebration, but Othniel could sense the wall that guarded his new wife’s heart. Just being near her caused his heart to beat erratically, but the cloud of doubt veiling her eyes made it impossible to know if she was affected in the slightest by his presence like he was by hers.
He’d not asked for this any more than she, but at least he was willing. Othniel struggled not to resent the situation even as he admired the simple beauty of his bride.
She was soft-spoken and shy. Was she a wilted wall flower? Would she be a strong queen one day?
His father had set about arranging the marriage and given Othniel very little say in the final decision. As it was, he’d received the barest of details about each possible bride.
Some of the young ladies he’d met before, at balls or on their estates, but Lady Ismene had been a mystery. Her father was often at court, though, as an advisor and friend to the King. Ultimately, Ismene was chosen, based not on her own merits but on the strength of her father’s political alliances within the Realms.
A soft knock on the door jostled him out of his contemplation.
“She’s ready, My Lord.”
Somehow Othniel doubted the truth of that statement. His doubt stemmed from his own lack of preparedness. He was now a married man, and life would never be the same. The Lady Ismene was not likely to make any of this easy.
“Thank you, Finn.”
The servant bowed and backed his way out the door. Othniel pulled his collar loose of the cravat and breathed a sigh of resignation. The door leading to the dressing room adjoining Ismene’s suite stood slightly ajar. He walked through it, unable to shake the feeling that he was headed straight into a black abyss.
* * *
The maids helped her prepare and then left her. She was alone . . . so alone. Ismene was sure some dark spirit had invaded and was squeezing her heart, constricting it to the point she couldn’t take a deep breath for fear of stopping its beating altogether.
She jumped at the sound of a door closing and pulled her robe tighter, her white knuckles almost matching the purity of the material they grasped. No sounds followed that of the door. It had been a distant door—no, just through the dressing salon.
When she thought she may pass out from holding her breath, a tiny knock sounded on the other side of the door to the salon. She released the air from her lungs in a whoosh, but couldn’t make a reply. Ismene’s eyes didn’t leave the door. Somewhere in her mind she knew there was no great monster on the other side, but the tumultuous emotions of the day finally caught up with her and she couldn’t listen to reason any more.
A hundred years of anxious waiting passed in the span of a minute. The door creaked open in a slow nightmarish way, but it was too late for Ismene. Tears wet her cheeks with a patina of shimmering saltiness.
* * *
Othniel waited to hear her invite him in. The tension in his shoulders increased with each passing second. After a time, he decided he must not have heard her. The door was unlocked and he opened it with great care.
What his eyes saw, once the door no longer hindered his sight, caught him off guard. Ismene huddled on the settee at the end of her bed, knees and robe pulled tight against her neck. There was no mistaking the turmoil written on her face, sealed in by her tears.
The tension drained out of his shoulders as soon as he understood. He closed the door with as much care as he’d opened it then walked to Ismene’s small night table. A handkerchief was there, folded with pristine lines, placed just so next to the lamp. Othniel picked it up and carried it to the end of the bed where Ismene still sat curled up.
* * *
Breathe. Just Breathe, she whispered in her mind. When he moved back into her line of sight, she had to repeat the mantra all over again. The words became more urgent when he sat next to her and then placed his fingers under her chin.
The cool touch of his fingertips on her damp chin sent chills running down her spine. Goose bumps rose on the flesh of her arms. She squeezed her eyes closed and tried to will herself away while he gently pulled her head to face him.
The feel of silky cloth on her cheek startled her eyes open. He was there, in front of her, a serious look of concentration written across his handsome face while he worked to remove the sticky tears from her cheeks. She stared at the bridge of his nose. It lead her vision down to his lips, held together in concentration.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Ismene. I’m not someone you ever need fear.”
Her eyes flashed up to meet his for a brief second, but she didn’t know what to say.
“It’s all right. You are my wife and will be for many years to come. There is no hurry.” He stopped dabbing at her face and set the handkerchief down on the end of the bed. Othniel took Ismene’s hands in his, prying her fingers loose from the robe, and captured her gaze with his own. “I find your beauty intoxicating, but I am not fool enough to force myself on you. Hear me now, Ismene. I will woo you, and I will make you mine in every way.”
Eyes now dry, heart thumping a million miles a second, Ismene watched him kiss the palms of her hands, horrified and drawn in. She felt his touch, but saw it as though witnessing through someone else’s eyes. She couldn’t deny that while never wanting this marriage, a small part of her was strangely drawn to the man to whom she’d been joined.
Could she come to love Othniel in a way she’d not thought possible? Could the life before her shine brighter than she dreamed? There was a promise in his eyes, and she wanted to believe it with every fiber of her being.
Othniel pulled her to a standing position, bent close and kissed her cheek. “Goodnight, wife.”
She watched him leave the room quiet as he came. What did her future hold?
(This will be the last chapter. There are so many places this story could go! Unless there is a great outpouring of protests for not telling you the rest, then I’ll stop here and let your imaginations take over. The Beauty Thief is now out and available, so you can skip forward from Ismene’s tale to that of her daughter, Princess Caityn)
© Copyright 2015 -All rights reserved by Rachael Ritchey