Thursday, February 16, 2017

Roses, Lions, and Tangos: Snippets of Queen Beauty and the Beasts - Part One

A startling realization came to me in the dark hours of this morning.

I have not yet posted a single snippet of the book that consumed me heart and soul for the last months.  *gasp*  Today, I remedy that.

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The door opened slowly and each paused to glance up.  Belleza gasped and the ladle from her hand clattered to the floor as she rushed to her father’s side, frightened by the face set in lines of gray worry far older than his real years.  “Papi!  What happened?”  Her brothers clustered around, easing their father gently into to a chair.  He put his arms up on the table and dropped his head heavily on them.  Something fell from his grasp and hit the floor softly.  Franco stooped to pick it up and held it out to Belleza.

“Here, sis, the rose you wanted.”

She took it, eyes and lips widening wonderingly.  The heart of it glowed vibrant red, darkening through the petals out to black edges that curled outwards tightly, as if protecting themselves from the elements.

* * * * * *

A lion faced another large cat across a grassy lawn.  They were too far away for Belleza to distinguish what kind of cat the other one was.  Several men stood nearby, watching them as they stalked in a circle, snarling and growling.  One of the men motioned with his hand and both cats turned on him for a second.  He laughed, actually laughed, and the cats returned to their circling.  The lion roared and the other cat snarled a reply.  Mesmerized, Belleza could not tear her eyes away, forgetting that her light was still on and showed her in clear relief against the glass.

* * * * * *

“Aren’t you a morning person,” someone mumbled from a heap of blankets on the floor.

Ki-ha nodded toward it.  “That’s Shin-woo.  He hates mornings.”

“You do know it’s almost afternoon, right?” Belleza asked the blankets incredulously.

Shin-woo’s head emerged to glower at her for a moment and then he burrowed back into the pile.

* * * * * *

“Hey, Bella, is Papi home yet?”

“How many times must you be told not to slam the door, Franco?  No, he’s not back yet.  Is the fog still thick?”

“Sí, ugh.”  Her eldest brother cut in.  “And Franco’s not driving ever again.”  He straddled a chair and shook his head at the youngest brother.

“Hey!” Franco protested.  “It’s not my fault the GPS gave the wrong turn.  I’d like to see you try to drive under those conditions.”  He threw his baseball cap at Lautaro.

* * * * * *

Shin-woo’s mask fell to the floor with a soft thud and her gaze followed it downward, noting the beautiful copper tracery on the black velvet, the smoothness of the underside, how the contours custom fitted to his face and his alone.

A growl drew her eyes back up and she silently screamed into the hand that came up to cover her mouth in instinctive reaction.  A tiger stood where Shin-woo had been a moment before, baring fangs at Lorena.  Frantically, she looked around the circle of young men.  Where each member had been standing, they were now hunched over and amid the sounds of tearing fabric and strange creaks and pops their bodies were actually transforming into... wild cats.  Kang-mun alone remained human but there was a terrible knowledge in his eyes as she automatically looked to him, searching frantically for answers.

* * * * * *

Calmly, she reached out and yanked him up.  “If you don’t dance with me, you’ll be in trouble with your grandmother.”

“Why?”

Belleza gave him her charmingly smug smile.  “Because she told me to make sure all of you danced tonight.”

Startled, he turned to the old lady for confirmation.  She nodded slowly and then chuckled at his groan of betrayal.

“Stop fussing,” Belleza ordered.  “One would think I told you that I was going to put you in front of a firing squad for practice.”

“I think I’d prefer the firing squad,” he complained, which earned him a smack to the shoulder and a flick on the forehead.  Still muttering, he spun her quickly and led off in a modified waltz, incorporating his own steps and forcing her to follow his lead.  If he hoped to confuse her, he was disappointed for she rose to the challenge, easily keeping up with him.

* * * * * *

Kang-mun threw back his head and laughed at the same moment neon purple lightning struck straight down the sky to their left. 

All of them except for Shin-woo shuddered at the inhuman aura the light gave him.  Min-jo groaned and muttered, “Not the demon laugh.”

* * * * * *

That’s it?  Chul-soo had to have heard wrong.  “Nothing else?  We don’t have to, well, kiss you or something?”

Amid the snickering directed at him, Belleza laughed and shook her head.  “We’ll save that for later, if we think we need it.  The princesses usually have to kiss the princes in fairy tales but I have no idea if that’s involved here and I’m not just going to walk up to you guys and kiss you.”

“I am deeply offended,” Shin-woo growled at her.  “Not wanting to kiss this handsome face?  Have you been out in the sun too much?”

She rolled her eyes.  “I didn’t say I didn’t want to kiss you, I said I wasn’t going to.”  Speculative grins spread over the members’ faces and she realized what she had said.  Clapping her hands to her blushing cheeks she stammered, “I-I didn’t mean that... well that ...oh, you’re all awful.  Every single one of you.  Ugh.  Can we go sightsee the city now?”

* * * * * *

“Belleza, go,” Chul-soo pleaded.

Lorena was smiling in fierce glee.  She had the upper hand now and she knew it.  “Will you let them make your choices for you forever?” she asked Belleza, holding out her hand appealingly.  “Do come down and let me look at you, child.  I have a gift for you.”

Belleza’s curiosity battled with the foreboding that this was what Ji-hoon had meant when he said her life would grow weirder before it grew clearer.

“Kang-mun sunbaen-?” she asked at last.

“It would be far better for you if you went back to bed,” his answer came before she’d even finished her question. 

She made her decision.  “But possibly not better for all of you.”

* * * * * *

"First of all, which of you told Joon-tae about the Mexico story?”  He alternated his glare between Nam-san and Dong-gun.

“I did,” Dong-gun lifted his head defiantly.  “He was a liability, knowing her when she was younger, and if someone didn’t tell him, then he could have let out the secret.”

“And I supported him and stood with him.”  Nam-san said, putting an arm around Dong-gun.  “You can be mighty glad that he did tell him because he helped save our butts tonight."

“Did I say I was otherwise than glad?” Kang-mun asked, his voice neutral.  “Thank you for telling him.”

“Well, it’s a night full of surprises,” Man-se commented as Dong-gun gaped at Kang-mun.  “The Witch sees the light, the Rose has thorns, and the Dragon doesn’t flame.”

Shin-woo snickered.

* * * * * *

Kang-mun stood so suddenly that his chair screeched on the floor.  “Stay away from Belleza, Joon-tae,” he warned sternly.  “Don’t meddle in business that’s not yours.”

“Bella is my friend and all of you were once my friends,” he shot back.  “More than that, you were once my brothers.  Which makes it my business.”

“No, it doesn’t.”  Kang-mun crossed the room in two fluid strides and gripped his shoulder with fingers of iron, pinning him against the wall.  “We’re not friends anymore, and Belleza is safely under our care.  Stay.  Away.”  The command was a cross between a growl and a hiss.  “Don’t you dare cross me, Joon-tae-yah.”

He shoved back, wrenching away from Kang-mun.  “Implied threats again?  That didn’t work on me the first time, hyung.”  He had the satisfaction of seeing Kang-mun’s jaw harden even more at the emphasis he placed on the last word.

* * * * * *

She straightened.  “Deny it all you wish, but you are more like me than you admit or can see.  I was young and idealistic once, so I know exactly how to bring you down if you continue to fight me."

Belleza’s face still burned, rebellion stiffening her petite form as her chest heaved in anger, but she was silent.
   
“You see, child?  I will break everyone loyal to you, I will break you and I will use you to break them.  Consider now if you truly want to risk it.”  With a last superior smile, she turned on her heel and went towards the door.
   
“You cannot always win.”  The plain words were unvarnished by the fury stirring in Belleza, ringing with simple belief in a higher power.  Lorena halted at the door and turned to her.
   
“No?  Keep thinking that, chiquita.  And when you’re ready to learn why I always do win, call me.”  She indicated Belleza’s phone on the table behind her.

* * * * * *

“You’re going to dance the last dance with me.”

“Aren’t you tired out from dancing?” he demanded.

She laughed the idea to scorn.  “It takes more dancing than this to make me tired.”

“Then why don’t you dance this one by yourself?  We’ll happily sit and watch.”

She batted her eyelashes at the compliment and then pursed her lips in a pout.  “But sunbae, don’t you know that it takes two to tango?”

For three seconds no one said anything.  Then Shin-woo whistled, Man-se and Yo-han hooted and the other boys started laughing.

“You know how to tango?” Min-jo asked, surprised.

Belleza gave an unladylike snort.  “I’m from Argentina.  Of course I know how to tango.”

“Not everyone from Argentina knows how to tango,” Kang-mun felt compelled to point out.

She rolled her eyes.  “Oh, fine.  I’m from the lower level of upper class Argentinian society.  Yes, I know how to tango.  Satisfied now?”

“Well, you’re not tangoing here.”  Kang-mun stood quickly and frowned down at her.

She nodded soberly.  “It makes sense that you wouldn’t know how.”

He choked and glared balefully at her.  “I know how to dance the tango.”


2 comments:

  1. EEEEEEEEEEE!!! SNIPPETS. And oh my gracious goodness, I LOVED THESE!!!

    Have I mentioned how much I completely and totally and utterly ADORE the fact that you wrote a Beauty and the Beast/Phantom of the Opera crossover??? AND it's in modern times. IT'S JUST SO UNIQUE AND PERFECT.

    These snippets were gorgeous, not to mention hilarious. I was grinning through so many of them. I'm already falling in love with your characters. Shin-woo particularly intrigues me. I loved the kissing snippet. So great. XD And that last one, with her claiming she can do the tango. AGH. I LOVE IT ALL.

    This is such a unique story with a lovable cast and just YOU ARE BRILLIANT LODY.

    ReplyDelete
  2. At first, I was afraid of spoilers...but now I'm looking forward to finding out the context of these intriguing snippets. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete

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