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. 

This chap­ter will only be up for one week. If you miss a chap­ter or would like to sup­port projects like this, join my Patreon.


Unfortunately, this chap­ter was only up for one week and you’ve missed the win­dow! If you’d like to catch up or sup­port oth­er projects like this, please join my Patreon.

The cas­tle had nev­er looked so invit­ing and fes­tive. Breaking Lukas’ curse on the house had repaired the win­dows and doors, had stitched up the rugs and unstained the stains. But it took the staff work­ing day after day to hang the rib­bons, train gar­lands of quince in bloom, and string lines of tiny elec­tric lights all around the arboretum.

A par­ty was underway.

Belle wore her incred­i­ble yel­low ball gown, the for­mer wed­ding dress that the mag­ic from the quince fruit had trans­formed into a large, flow­ing gown that draped off her shoul­ders in lay­ers of ruched silk. Her favorite pale bal­let flats were hid­den under the fluffy dress, she wore a pair of dan­g­ly ear­rings, and her father had spent hours over the last few days re-braid­ing her hair from top to bot­tom in the small­est braids she’d ever seen. Smaller than her pinky fin­ger. There were hun­dreds of lit­tle braids cas­cad­ing over her shoul­ders, now, a few of them with gold bead­ing and ribbons.

Unlike the dis­as­ter wed­ding, Belle went with­out pow­ders or paints. They made her skin feel dry. Instead, she glossed her lips and noth­ing more. And with that she was ready.

The entire vil­lage had been invit­ed. The cas­tle buzzed with hap­py people–the staff no longer trapped as fur­ni­ture, the cas­tle itself restored, Gaston noth­ing but an unpleas­ant memory–there was much to cel­e­brate. Belle and one of the house­keep­ers, Marie, spent their after­noons writ­ing invi­ta­tions until their hands cramped that Lukas had deliv­ered to each home, and every­one had returned their response to attend. Everyone. There had­n’t been a par­ty like this in any­one’s mem­o­ry and Belle was deter­mined to play per­fect hostess.

There was music and food enough for everyone.

Of course, she could­n’t do it with­out Lumiere orga­niz­ing the kitchen and Madam Armoire sign­ing her wel­come in the atrium.

And the guests kept com­ing and coming.

Belle start­ed the night intend­ed to say hel­lo and have a quick chat with every­one who stepped in the cas­tle, but only a few min­utes after Quinn opened the door, it seemed, the entire vil­lage arrived en masse and it was all Belle could to not to be swept away from the entrance into the arbore­tum up the stairs.

Laurien found her almost imme­di­ate­ly, dressed in a new green gown that matched the dark­est leaves in the arbore­tum and hand stitched with gold along the edges. She brought a small gift wrapped with a bow.

Belle want­ed to avoid her at first. Their his­to­ry was­n’t exact­ly friend­ly. But after Laurien’s dis­play at the wed­ding, and the fact that she’d come appar­ent­ly alone, stayed Belle’s judg­ment. She smiled gen­tly and wel­comed Laurien to the castle.

Laurien shoved the gift ahead of her like she did­n’t know what to do with it and habit­u­al­ly tucked her hair behind her ear, even though all her hair had been tied up in curls and there was noth­ing to tuck. ”Thank you for the invi­ta­tion,” she said qui­et­ly, and Belle had to slide clos­er to hear. ”I had to do a lit­tle research for your gift.”

Belle untied the bow at her urg­ing and fold­ed the paper back to reveal a book. And not just any book, but book three in the series she’d been read­ing the day Quinn found her in the court­yard. The same book Quinn had tak­en and Belle had lat­er filed in the cas­tle library. This was a very spe­cif­ic gift.

Belle smiled and held the book to her chest. ”Thank you, this is per­fect. You must have spo­ken with Lukas?”

”That’s right,” she said. ”I’m afraid I’m not real­ly a read­er, so I asked for his help. But when I looked through the book I was sur­prised. There are adven­tures and sword fights and a woman trav­el­ing the world all on her own.” Laurien shrugged. ”The books I was told a lady reads.…” she shook her head and laughed. ”Well this one was a lot more inter­est­ing so I asked Lukas what book I should start with and he gave me two to try.”

Pleasantly sur­prised, Belle straight­ened and nod­ded. ”I see! Which ones did he suggest?”

Laurien’s face scrunched, ”I don’t remem­ber the titles. One is about a mag­ic ring that can make the per­son who wears it invisible?”

”Oh yes,” Belle said, her grin spread­ing. ”That’s one of Lukas’ favorites. It’s a good place to start. It shows how one per­son can change the course of the whole world.”

”The oth­er one has a lady rid­ing one the back of a drag­on and Lukas said it was your favorite series.”

”Oh!” Belle nod­ded again. ”The drag­on is gold and there’s a big red sun in the sky?” At Laurien’s bemused nod, Belle bounced a lit­tle on her toes. ”Those books are so good. I real­ly hope you like them.”

”You have tea with Lukas in the morn­ings, right?”

”Most days, yes.”

”If I see you there, may I join you? Maybe we can talk about books.”

The cau­tious hope in Lauren’s light eyes prompt­ed Belle to reach out and put a hand on her arm. ”That would be lovely.”

Her nose scrunched again. ”We’ll just have to avoid Gaston.”

Belle laughed. ”He won’t be a prob­lem any­more. Not to any­one. In fact, you should­n’t see him in town at all.”

But the news just seemed to make Laurien wilt. She looked down and away, tuck­ing her hair again behind her ear. ”I’m sor­ry I’ve been such a judge­men­tal neigh­bor. He fol­lowed you around so much, I thought you were… I don’t know, string­ing him along for sport.” She squared her shoul­ders. ”I made some stu­pid assump­tions and it turns out he was harass­ing you the whole time and I’m sor­ry I did­n’t realise. I should have talked to you. I should have–” she made a frus­trat­ed sound. ”I’m so mad at him. And it’s good that he’s gone, it is, but I real­ly wish I could hit him,” she said, mak­ing a fist.

Belle’s heart swelled with every word and she had to blink hard to keep tears from spilling over her cheeks. Who knew that such a kind heart had been hid­ing behind Laurien’s cold eyes all these years?

”Well, you should know that I did get to slap him before he left.”

Laurien gasped and her eyes lit up with mis­chief. ”Was it sol­id? Did it feel good?”

”It felt so good,” Belle con­fid­ed. ”Is that terrible?”

”No! He was a beast!”

They gig­gled con­spir­a­to­ri­al­ly together.

And that was where Quinn found them an hour lat­er, seat­ed at the edge of the arbore­tum gossiping.

Belle intro­duced them offi­cial­ly, say­ing, ”Laurien, this is Quinn. They are the keep­er of this cas­tle and they’re also a great lover of books.”

Laruien was vis­i­bly unsure about Quinn and their mas­sive antlers, but she held out her hand any­way and kept her chin up. ”It’s love­ly to meet you, Quinn.”

Quinn bowed care­ful­ly over Laurien’s hand and ges­tured with the other.

Belle trans­lat­ed, ”They say the hon­or is theirs and if you have need of a book, their library is open to you.”

”Oh a library!” said Laurien, glanc­ing at Belle. ”Like Lukas’?”

”Much big­ger,” Belle smiled, ”But don’t tell him that.”

Lauien laughed.

Quinn signed again, includ­ing Laurien even though she did­n’t under­stand the lan­guage. Belle trans­lat­ed, ”Apologies, but may I bor­row Belle for a dance?”

”Ohhhh!” Laurien said, nudg­ing Belle up from her seat. ”Yes, you can! Go!”

Belle laughed as Quinn pulled her away and real­ized the evening had advanced past sun­down with­out her notic­ing. Guests trick­led into the arbore­tum from their din­ner ser­vice in pairs and quads to line the edges of the room and enjoy the music.

Madam Armoire stood on a raised plat­form near the water­fall, a quar­tet of strings behind her, and lift­ed her hands as she began to sing.

Quinn spun Belle to the cen­ter of the arbore­tum, and they danced in a qui­et cir­cle around the quince tree in the cen­ter with its riot of red and pink blooms.

Quinn’s hands were large in hers, tipped with black claws, but their touch was del­i­cate and pre­cise. Belle let her feet find the waltz and she closed her eyes when Quinn spun her around so that her dress flared at the edges just like her braids.

She’d nev­er felt more con­tent, more seen, more loved.

And she’d nev­er seen Quinn more con­fi­dent and proud.

Something more than a bit of mag­ic had changed in both of them.

The song slowed. Quinn led Belle under the per­go­la, where the quince flow­ers shield­ed them from guests, and they drew clos­er. Belle rest­ed her head on Quinn’s chest and felt the qui­et rum­bling purr vibrat­ing down deep.

The sound mixed with Madam Armoire’s voice. The strings sang like birds.

And Belle knew this was the first moment of the rest of her life.