Beauty stomped her foot again in the mud. She grabbed at the padlock with both hands, twisting ineffectually. "Give me back my brother, fiend!"
"So you can take his place, stay forever at my side?" asked the Beast. "There are rats in the larder and bones in the ballroom, and the plumbing gave way long ago, but it's true I have stacks of gold buried about…somewhere."
He reached behind Corbin's ear and drew forth a gold medallion. Both Beauty and Corbin gaped. The medallion was thicker than a slice of meat. It was also studded with brilliant gemstones.
"Impressive, isn't it? I grew bored counting treasure many centuries ago. Gold is of little use to a man who can't leave his home." The Beast leaned forward until he was almost nose-to-nose with Beauty through the bars of the gate. Corbin thought he saw those inhuman yellow eyes flicker.
"It's yours. Take it." The Beast started to extend the medallion then snatched it back. "Wait. Either, or. Choose. Stay and I'll release your brother. Or take this marvel instead. You, your wily papa, and your sisters can live like royalty for the rest of your lives on this tiny piece of my treasure. But Corbin stays here, and if any of you come knocking at my gate ever again I'll pick my teeth with your bones."
Corbin stood very still. He knew Beauty's choice before she made it. She loved him; of that he had no doubt. But she'd never wanted to do the hard work.
He tried not to blame her when she grabbed the medallion through the bars, hugging the gold to her chest. Still, he couldn't suppress a small sound of dismay.
Beauty didn't meet his eye. Clutching her prize, she turned and fled back along the cobblestone path toward Littleton.
"It's not too late," the Beast said after a moment of shared silence. "Do you want her eaten?"
"No!" Corbin turned his back on the gate and on the demon both. "She's kin. She's my sister."
"She seems to have forgotten that."
Corbin didn't bother with a reply. He looked down at his fists, surprised to find them clenched. His knuckles shone bloodless through skin. The demon inhaled loudly, then exhaled through his nose in a snort.
"You're no good to me in a sulk, Red." He held out a hand. "Come. The chessboard awaits. I've yet to teach you the Knight."
Corbin frowned through the gate at Beauty's muddy tracks then back at the Beast. For once he was spared that yellow gaze. The demon stood half turned away as if bored with talking. But his waiting hand trembled the tiniest bit. His elegant shoulders were stooped.
This is not living. I but reside, waiting for the day my heart finally fails.
Corbin took the demon's hand. The shaking fingers closed tight around his own.
"I've come to kill you," he reminded the Beast, part regret and part promise.
"Try," the Beast returned, smiling wide.
Title: Beastly Manor
Author: Alex Hall
Genre: LGBT Fantasy
Once upon a time in a faraway land a very wealthy merchant lived on a good piece of land just west of the hamlet we now call Littleton. The merchant was blessed with luck and guile, strong bones and sharp eyes, a pretty wife of gentle spirit, and four healthy children whom he called Faith, Hope, Beauty, and Corbin.
An LGBT twist on the classic love story.
Buy the book on Amazon.
Alex Hall writes LGBT speculative fiction for Madison Place Press. Find out more about Alex, Beastly Manor, and Alex’s forthcoming dystopian M/M romance, The Stranded, at www.sarahremy.com