Welcome to Beauty’s Beast, book 3 in the Black Trans Fairy Tales series. This novel­la is releas­ing one chapter/week on the blog ahead of pub­li­ca­tion. Three chap­ters will be avail­able for free, after that, they’ll only be up for one week. If you miss a chap­ter or would like to sup­port projects like this, join my Patreon.


Chapter 1

The vil­lage sang with bird­song and ear­ly light crest­ing the dis­tant moun­tains. Belle bathed in the gold­en glow as she walked into town, hum­ming a song to her­self. She skipped joy­ful­ly down the cob­ble­stones, kick­ing her skirt out and spin­ning. The bas­ket on her arm bounced on her hip.

As she had done every morn­ing sine she was young, Belle had care­ful­ly shaved her face smooth with her father’s straight razor. Yesterday’s beard stub­ble rinsed into the basin along with that qui­et dis­com­fort that looked back at her in the mir­ror. After that, a bit of blush and some col­or on her eyes was all the trans­for­ma­tion she need­ed. Last night, her father had tight­ened up her locs, pulling the loose hair by her scalp into neat and order­ly rows with deft fin­gers and a bit of mois­tur­iz­er. She could do it her­self now—her hair fell down to her waist and the locs were easy to maintain—but she loved the time curled up on the floor in front of her father’s chair read­ing her lat­est book while his famil­iar fin­gers tugged and twisted.

She wore an old favorite dress, one of her late mother’s that Belle kept in good repair despite a gen­er­al dis­like for hem­ming and sewing. It was a sun­ny yel­low, dyed and sun-fad­ed over the years, with a line of white daisies embroi­dered by hand along the hem. Belle’s moth­er had stitched the flow­ers her­self and wore the dress for her wed­ding. Belle wore it to remem­ber her moth­er, a woman of soft smiles and gen­tle hands. Belle only had fad­ed mem­o­ries from infan­cy, before the con­sump­tion took her.

Belle car­ried a book in the bas­ket, last night’s book in fact. By the time her father had fin­ished her hair, Belle had been swept into the sto­ry, unable to put the book down until she reached the end in the dying can­dle­light far past bed time. One of her errands today includ­ed a stop at the bookshop.

She made this walk most morn­ings. Her father used to come into town for pro­duce and wood­work­ing sup­plies but he had set down his craft some years ago when his eyes and strength began to fail. Now Belle made the walk alone, sup­port­ing her father the way he had sup­port­ed her for so long.

Belle’s hum rose into a song as she trav­eled, har­mo­niz­ing with the birds. The trees—a loose mix of val­ley oak, white pine, blend­ing into birch up the mountainside—littered the path with dap­pling shade. Birch were her favorite, with their stark white bark, dark eyes on the trunks, and flam­ing col­or as the sea­sons turned. She’d nev­er been one to paint, but an entire moun­tain­side of birch trees chang­ing for autumn occa­sion­al­ly made her con­sid­er it.

A stream passed through the thin for­est between Belle’s home and the vil­lage square. The bridge that arched across always gave her the best view of the town in the morn­ing. From here, one hand on the wood­en rail, she could see the tops of a dozen thatched roofs; bak­ery, inn, and shops snaking through the val­ley along the riv­er edge. A thin line of smoke marked the black­smith already at work. Beyond the vil­lage, the for­est thinned even fur­ther, dis­solv­ing into a stretch of grass­land that crept to the horizon.

Belle’s home sat in the hills behind her, among the birch and the deer. A sheer moun­tain range ringed the back of the val­ley, stand­ing tall like sen­tinels against the rest of the world. Tucked into the cliffs, hid­ing in the birch, an old cas­tle still stood against time. No one in the vil­lage knew its his­to­ry, but Belle found the ruin a beau­ti­ful place to be alone with her books.

From the bridge, Belle saw Rionen pulling fresh water from the well in the cen­ter. The baker’s appren­tice had pow­er­ful arms from knead­ing and lift­ing trays of just-baked rolls and she dis­trib­uted water to a wait­ing line of vil­lagers. The fresh smell of bak­ing bread waft­ed by, col­ored with bright rose­mary. Belle sud­den­ly had a pow­er­ful crav­ing for Rionen’s thin, crispy bread sticks. She always sprin­kled a bit of salt on them and they snapped so delight­ful­ly in Belle’s teeth. Oh, and with a mug of tea she could sit out by the book­shop and start read­ing her next book. Yes, this was a grand plan.

Belle skipped into town. She waved at Rionen and Eden beside her, the can­dle mak­er. Isra at the bak­ery hap­pi­ly trad­ed Belle a bou­quet of fresh rose­mary bread sticks and a mug of tea for the book Belle fin­ished last night. The book would prob­a­bly pass around the town six or sev­en times before final­ly being returned to the shop for a few pen­nies. Anything Belle enjoyed read­ing often became quite popular. 

Several peo­ple stopped to wish her and her father well, which Belle accept­ed gra­cious­ly. Her father couldn’t come into town fre­quent­ly, but he was still well loved and Belle was warmed to see it every day.
The book­store sat like a thin and gan­g­ly teenag­er between two much more stout build­ings. It was two sto­ries tall, but the upper half was an apart­ment for the shop keep­er, while the entire bot­tom floor was ded­i­cat­ed to shelves of books.

Lukas waved her into the book­shop eager­ly, his curl­ing gray hair a halo around his dark face. He stood tall and thin like his shop, most­ly bones and joints under an always-pressed vest and hat. He was as old as her father, maybe old­er. Belle had only ever known him as the book­shop own­er, but he gave her the impres­sion that a big­ger sto­ry lived in his past. Some kind of adven­ture like the ones she read about in the books she loved.

You enjoyed it?” He asked imme­di­ate­ly, his hands clasped and his eyes glit­ter­ing. “You just bought it yesterday!”

Belle laughed. “It was amaz­ing, Lukas, you were right. I already gave it to Isra and told her to set aside sev­er­al hours.” She put her hands on Lukas’ and squeezed. “Please tell me you have the next one. I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to wait for you to order it.”

Lukas pulled her deep­er into the shop. “Don’t you wor­ry, my dear. I know bet­ter than to tease you with the first book. I learned my les­son when you were young and near­ly tore up the shop when I gave you an adven­ture with­out hav­ing the oth­ers.” He shot a sly look over his shoul­der at you. “I had no idea how quick­ly you would devour it. I thought I had time to order the rest!”

Belle hid her face with one hand at the teas­ing. She con­sid­ered her­self a kind and patient per­son, a soft voice, like her moth­er. She want­ed to be the per­son that oth­er peo­ple could rely on for a steady hand and rea­son­able advice.

But she sim­ply couldn’t con­tain her­self when it came to new books. She became a mon­ster. It was so embarrassing.

Thankfully she’d found a kin­dred spir­it in Lukas, who was hap­py to pro­vide her with all man­ner of excit­ing tales at her request.

He led her to his desk in the back room, a pristine­ly orga­nized space of books, box­es, paper­work, and plan­ning. He swiped two books off the cor­ner of the desk and hand­ed them to Belle with a smile. “Here you are. Books two and three. That’s the com­plete tril­o­gy so you won’t have to wait to fin­ish it.”

Belle inspect­ed both books with excite­ment, delight­ing in their hand-paint­ed cov­ers and the neat hand-writ­ten script inside. She couldn’t wait to read. She set the books in her bas­ket and paid Lukas his usu­al fee.

When you’re done, I have some­thing unusu­al for you to try next. It’s about a woman who tames a wild beast of the for­est and togeth­er they over­throw a cor­rupt king. Very exciting.”

Belle cov­ered her ears. “No don’t tell me more!” she said, laugh­ing. “I’ve already spent my book bud­get for the week and you know it.”

Next week, then,” Lukas promised. “But only if you fin­ish those two.”

That will not be a prob­lem,” Belle said. “I saw my table is open out front. I’ll get start­ed right away.”
Lukas waved as she left.

The bookshop’s bell jin­gled as she opened and closed the door and Belle paused in the morn­ing sun to bask in the light for a moment. How could a day start­ing with bread sticks, tea, and a good book ever go wrong?

Lukas’ shop sat a good yard and a half deep­er than the two build­ings next to it, giv­ing the space a bit of an alcove feel right at the entrance. Lukas had built a bench seat into the front wall under the bay win­dow and padded it with a rain­bow of pil­lows to sit on. A col­lec­tion of tiny tables lined the bench, found here and there around town, repaired, and paint­ed white so they seemed to match even though their designs var­ied. Overhead, a series of hang­ing planters cra­dled ivy vines that wound up their chains and spread across the face of the build­ing in every direction.

Belle’s favorite table sat in the cor­ner, where she could lean against the build­ing on the right and prop her feet up on the bench with­out being in anyone’s way. She had a clear view of the well and its dwin­dling line as well as the main cob­ble­stone road through town. And as the sun rose, she’d be shad­ed by the ivy over­head. The table in the cor­ner was tiny, just enough for her hot tea and a nap­kin full of slim bread sticks. She nes­tled her bas­ket under the table and got com­fort­able with her next book.

Belle was star­tled out of her book by a hideous and arro­gant voice. She jumped in her cor­ner, knock­ing the table beside her where her tea mug perched—thankfully emp­ty. The sun had risen and as expect­ed, the hang­ing ivy shad­ed her cor­ner from the heat and light. Judging from the rum­ble in her stom­ach and the busy mar­ket, it was near­ly noon.

The man both­er­ing her stood just an inch out­side of her per­son­al space. He loomed like a vul­ture, one meaty hand lean­ing on the bookstore’s bay window.


Hero of the town: tall, strong, hand­some. Slayer of mon­sters. Protector of damsels.


His blond hair fell in a wave over one shoul­der and he wore a flashy red and leather out­fit suit­able for hunt­ing in the woods. Judging by the shine on the brass buck­les, had nev­er been hunt­ing through the woods. It was just a look. Belle sus­pect­ed Gaston hadn’t killed a sin­gle one of the tro­phies he kept in his lodge. She’d been sub­ject to his out­ra­geous sto­ries often enough. They nev­er matched from one day to the next.

He could ride a horse and his sword was real, but the rest of him was a show for atten­tion and Belle had nev­er been interested.

She couldn’t help recoil­ing, try­ing to give her­self a lit­tle more space. Gaston’s sin­is­ter smile widened.
He seemed to take her dis­gust as a chal­lenge. Every time she man­aged to slip away he laughed as if she were play­ing hard-to-get and he enjoyed the game. The sound of his voice was a thou­sand spi­ders crawl­ing up her back. She shivered.

Gaston laughed loud­ly, pro­ject­ing into the street as if she’d said some­thing wit­ty. It was all an act, meant to get the atten­tion of every­one pass­ing by. He thought if he drew enough atten­tion she wouldn’t be rude and turn her back on him. She would have to be polite. She couldn’t make a scene in pub­lic. Belle couldn’t stop the sneer from crawl­ing over her lips. She tucked her book into her bas­ket, col­lect­ed her mug and swept the crumbs from the table for the birds.

Belle, dar­ling, you’re not hap­py to see me?” Gaston slid down onto the bench to sit far too close.
Belle stood up imme­di­ate­ly, slid­ing the lit­tle table into Gaston’s way so she had room to flee.
She didn’t want to run from him, but she left the book­store at a brisk walk, secret­ly pleased when she heard him curs­ing the table qui­et­ly and knock­ing it out of the way. Half a sec­ond head start. She’d worked with less.

Belle took a fork in the road toward the street mar­ket. At lunch it would be bustling with peo­ple, and with a lit­tle luck, Gaston would draw atten­tion to him­self with­out her help. Her heart surged in her chest and she took a delib­er­ate deep breath. For all his pos­tur­ing, Gaston had nev­er man­han­dled her, and he was far more sen­si­tive about his pub­lic appear­ance than she was. Belle just need­ed to keep a cool head and get into a crowd. She kept a tight hand on her basket.

The mar­ket swelled just ahead. The heavy scent of roast meat and grilling reached her first. Belle’s stom­ach growled, remind­ing her it was time to eat.

She’d pick some­thing up after ditch­ing Gaston.

Belle! I have some­thing to show you!” he called.

Belle dove into the crowd of the mar­ket. She didn’t want to see any­thing Gaston had to show off. And thanks to his shout, an entire group of women—and a few men—gasped and ran to meet him. In sec­onds he was mobbed by socialites in large dress­es and the act he played wouldn’t allow him to brush them aside.

Belle cir­cled the mar­ket with a secret smile. She hat­ed the man, but his false face made it easy to use against him and slip away. As long as peo­ple were busy in town, she could always find a way out.
The group that sur­round­ed Gaston fawned over his hunt­ing leathers and demand­ed his pres­ence at the next par­ty and insist­ed on pri­vate din­ner meet­ings. The men want­ed to hear his hunt­ing sto­ries while the women com­pet­ed to mar­ry him. Why on earth Gaston insist­ed on harass­ing Belle when he had two dozen peo­ple at his feet ready to do his bid­ding, she’d nev­er understand.

With the beast occu­pied, Belle tracked down a roast­ed skew­er of veg­eta­bles and a fresh loaf of bread for lunch. That set­tled, she went through her men­tal list of errands. She had to pick up some gro­ceries, return this tea mug, and slip out of town with­out Gaston spot­ting her.

Today wasn’t the first time he’d cor­nered her at the book­store but he’d nev­er tried to sit with her before. He was get­ting more aggres­sive and Belle had no idea what to do about it. Some days she want­ed to punch him in his per­fect nose, just to see his shocked face. She’d prob­a­bly break her hand but it would be worth it.

Belle shook her head and focused. Gaston and his poor behav­ior didn’t get to live in her head. She had more impor­tant things to do.

It was time she got to it.

Chapter 2