Title An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale
Author Ann M. Noser
Genre fairy tale, fantasy, YA/NA crossover
Prince Bane Baronne has baby fever. He is in search of a wife with the proper mystical bloodline to bear him the heir of prophecy. Anna Leon is chosen, but Bane only pretends to be Prince Charming. When Anna questions his intentions, she vanishes from the castle.
Convinced she is to blame for her younger sister's disappearance, Maria Leon is coerced into the royal marriage instead. She is older, wiser, and should know better—but Bane always gets what he wants. And he is not above using trickery or treachery to do so.
Maria attempts to salvage what she can of a "happily ever after" by working hard to be the best mother and wife. Until the day she learns that every woman who has married into the Baronne line disappears soon after they have produced an heir.
And she is next in line.
CHAPTER 2—THE PRINCE REQUIRES A WIFE
The front door slammed, ruining a perfectly good daydream. Maria had been the guest of honor at a lovely party held in a grand castle. The best part was that, for once, nobody told her how much to eat. She rubbed her sleepy eyes, inhaling the familiar scent of leather-bound books and Father's pipe.
Across the room, her younger sister, Anna, leaned over their father's shoulder to study an elaborate map resting on his massive wooden desk. Her finger trailed the crooked length of a great river.
Maria yawned and stretched on the window seat, her eye catching on the carriage just outside. “Mother's home already. Thought she planned to be gone all day.” She sighed, bracing herself for her mother's tongue.
Watch your posture! You slouch like a willow tree’s branches…
Unconsciously, Maria straightened.
Fix your hair! You look like a street urchin…
Both hands quickly inspected her braids.
Tighten your corset before Lady Peafowl tells everyone you have gained weight!
Maria hated Lady Peafowl. Why could she not move far, far away? Or drown in a nearby pond?
Hurried footfalls approached the library door.
Maria clenched the book she had been reading before she had nodded off.
Mother Leon burst into the library. “Oh, my dears—I have such news for you!”
Anna smiled. “What is it, Mother?”
“The prince is coming!”
“Here?” Maria scanned the cluttered bookshelves, worn furniture, and faded tapestries. For the last two years, the prince had toured the vast lands of Desiderata in search of a suitable wife, but she never thought he would actually come to the Leon home.
Mother sighed. “No, of course not. Do not be ridiculous. He has been invited to the Pekipsie’s large estate for their annual Summer Festival.”
Father glanced up from his desk. “They are the only family around here with enough gold to impress royalty. Did you girls know that your mother almost married into the Pekipsie family? Too bad you settled for humble old me, eh, Louisa?”
Mother frowned. “No need to dig into the past, dear. I am more concerned about the girls' future.” Her eyes flashed with excitement. “Anna's fifteen, the perfect age to be presented! And, Maria…” Her eyes narrowed. “Step forward, please.”
Maria scooted off the window seat, keeping her backside to the bookshelves to hide a grass stain on her dress. She had sat in the damp grass earlier that morning, devouring a lovely book full of botanical descriptions and illustrations.
“What happened to your frock?” Mother spun her around with a disgusted gasp. “I swear, you are more careless now than you were as a child!”
Maria's cheeks burned as Mother shook her head and turned to evaluate Anna, who somehow always appeared perfect.
“Anna, my dear, your golden hair glows like the sun, and your waist is smaller than mine was at your age.” Mother circled her youngest daughter like a cat. “Let us see what we can do to make you look your best at the Festival.”
Anna turned frightened eyes to her older sister. “Help me,” she mouthed.
Growing up an only child, I learned to entertain myself. During summer vacations, my greatest form of exercise consisted of turning the pages of a book. Now I'm all grown up, and full of stories half-written in my head. I have to write them down so I can find out what happens next.
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