Hey! Two days in a row! Theme week continues with Writing Wednesdays. Here is a sneak peek at my short story,
The Princess and the Peas, in The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance:
Excerpt from The Princess and the Peas, copyright Alyssa Day
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a princess in a tiny kingdom known as Elvania. The kingdom’s exact location is long lost in the mists of time; some say it became part of France, while others claim it for Switzerland. The Swiss claim has more merit, perhaps, as the precedent of impartial and wintry cold neutrality has sometimes been a guiding tenet of that people. All agree that the princess claimed a lovely view of the waters of what is now called Lake Geneva from her turret bedroom.
Not that she cared much for views. Or lakes. Or anything at all, in fact, other than her single-minded, unswerving quest for the perfect husband.
This is her story. (Except where it isn’t.)
“Lucinda!” The dulcet shrieks of her-royal-pain-in-the-nether-regions rang through Lucy’s skull like a trumpet blown by a particularly incompetent musician. She shot up out of her narrow bed, clutching the threadbare quilt to her chest, blinking stupidly, wondering what was on fire.
With any luck, she was. She being Princess Margarita Gloriana Dolores Tresor Montague, Glory to her friends, not that she had any. Lady, mistress, and hellspawn to Lucinda since the two of them had been ten years old.
When the cry didn’t repeat itself, Lucy closed her eyes and started to sink back into her lumpy mattress, hoping that it had been a nightmare. Maybe she could fall back into that inexplicably tingly dream, although it was curious that Ian, his dark eyes flashing, had been riding his horse through the main hall, coming to get her. Since when did she dream of Ian?
More to the point, since when did any dream leave her feeling quite so . . . breathless?
She repressed that line of inquiry and opened a single eye. The glimmers of pink light edging through her narrow window told her that it could be no more than an hour since the princess had finally, finally pronounced herself pleased enough with the preparations, so that Lucy could crawl off to her room--the tiny chamber adjacent to Glory’s own—and catch at least a few short hours of sleep before the guests arrived.
More stinking royalty.
If Lucy lived through the week, it would be a miracle. Why couldn’t she be a cook or a scullery maid or even a laundress? Surely slaving away in the hot kitchens or over the clothes boiling away in the pots must be a stroll in the gardens compared to dancing attendance on the spoiled brat of a princess.
Never mind. It didn’t matter. Sleep. Lovely, blessed sleep.
Just a few hours, and then a strong mug or three of hot tea, and---
“Lucinda! Get in here right this minute, you lazy girl! We forgot the peas!”
Lucy startled awake with a jerk and slammed her head so hard into the stone wall that she was sure to have a goose egg on her skull in a matter of hours. Not to mention the headache. She gritted her teeth, threw her legs over the side of the bed, and stood up, swaying a little with dizziness from the pain in her head.
“I. Am. Coming. You. Horrible. Monster,” she gritted out under her breath. Then, louder: “Coming, my lady.”
She didn’t bother to put a spritely tone in her voice. Glory wouldn’t have believed it anyway. The last time Lucy had sounded spritely, it had been the day she’d left a very wet and slimy toad in Glory’s bed. She grinned at the memory but then sighed.
Sad to live on the memory of a childish rebellion that had happened nearly eleven years ago.
Lucy stumbled into Glory’s room, taken aback as always at the virulent pinkness of it. Wall hangings, rugs, bed coverlets, and even Glory herself were all a vision in nauseating pink. And rose. And red-tinged violet. It was like walking into the inside of a sow’s stomach.
She rubbed her eyes again, hoping it would go away. It didn’t. It never did.
“What are you talking about, Glory? What peas?”
“That’s Your Highness,” Glory snapped. “Or Milady, at least while our guests are here. I can’t have it thought that I allow the serving wenches to address me with such familiarity.”
“Serving wenches? Serving wenches? Whose shoulder have you cried on more times than either of us can count? Whose bed did you climb into for safety and comfort whenever there was a thunderstorm—and that up until you were fifteen years old?” Lucy asked with—she thought—admirable calm. “Mayhap you should rethink that term, or I’ll find out if Magda can come help you this week.”
Glory gasped at the idea of the pig keeper as her personal servant. “Magda? She hasn’t bathed in months. You must be joking. Don’t forget that you owe me--"
“I owe you nothing,” Lucy said flatly. “I’ve spent the past eleven years working far and above the value of my keep, in spite of the promise your mother made to mine. I turn twenty-one in three days and am only staying this week as a favor to the Glory I once loved as a sister.”
Glory had the grace to look abashed, but only for a span of seconds. “You know you cannot leave me, twenty-one or no. There is no place for you to go.”
“There is the world, Glory. There is the world. Or do you forget?” Lucy waved her arm and the scattered pillows, clothes, and assorted frippery covering every inch of Glory’s floor flew gracefully to their assigned places in trunks and the wardrobe.
“Now. What peas?”
[For more, check out THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE, in stores now!]