Excerpt: Fairytales Slashed: Volume 6
The Red Shoes by Angel Propps
Karen Clifton stared at the bar across the street from the small boutique in which she worked. It looked innocuous enough: the early afternoon sunlight struck sparks from the pink stucco walls and the parking lot sat empty and abandoned. The sign was dark and there were no people waiting in a long line at the heavy door hidden under a recessed alcove.
“I can’t believe they put that place there.”
Karen didn’t dare turn toward Louisa, her boss, for fear the other woman might see the yearning written on her face. “A bar like that… right across from a respectable shopping center no less… ah well, maybe the guys will have the good taste they are known for and come buy some shoes.” The disdain in Louisa’s voice was palpable.
Karen tensed but said nothing. Louisa was a terrible boss. She was an upright, uptight penny-pincher who hated everyone and anyone who was not what she considered suitable. It never failed to amaze Karen that though Louisa found so few people suitable she had no issue taking money from anyone.
She had been desperate for a job, so when Louisa had made it clear that she didn’t want what she branded a certain element working in her establishment, Karen had just nodded and said nothing. Being femme was often a disadvantage, especially when she wanted to talk to some sexy butch that didn’t recognize her as a lesbian because it wasn’t exactly tattooed on her forehead, but sometimes it had an advantage to it too.
She knew she should have just walked out of the place instead of taking the job but she had been laid off from her accounting position at a small advertising firm seven months before and her rent had been dangerously behind, her car had been repossessed and she had exactly eight dollars and sixteen cents in her checking account. She couldn’t afford to walk away; Louisa had been the only game going. And, sadly, she still was. Karen had been putting applications in since she had started at the boutique but so far she had had no luck.
“There is a new shipment in the back. I know I said I can’t afford any more overtime, and I can’t, however, those boxes need to get unpacked tonight.”
Karen turned to look at Louisa. As usual, her black hair was scraped back in a bun so tight her forehead was remarkably smooth, which Karen was certain was the reason why she wore it that way. Her thin little lips pursed and her bird-like eyes glowed with both spite and avarice. When Karen had first started working there, she had protested the hours and the lack of overtime; the result had been a week without any hours. While she would have loved nothing more than to shove a shoe right up Karen’s ass she also knew she couldn’t afford to do so.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“Good.” Louisa smoothed the expensive linen dress she wore and the diamonds on her rings flashed in the sunlight filtering through the windows. “I have a very important dinner date this evening and I can’t keep them waiting.”
Karen didn’t know what was worse, the fact that Louisa assumed she had no plans of her own or the fact that she didn’t. Her reflection surfaced in the glass and she stared at it for a moment—__her long strawberry blonde hair was swept back in a plain headband, her blue eyes had little makeup around them and her slightly too-wide mouth had been given a bare slick of gloss that morning that she had managed to chew through during the day. She knew she should care more about her makeup but she could not seem to lately.
“Stop standing in front the window,” Louisa snapped. “I don’t pay you to stand still.”
Karen had a vision of herself quitting and storming out. It was a nice fantasy but fantasies were a luxury she couldn’t afford at the moment so she turned away from the window and went to work.
The Dragon of Bellerose Island by Sasha L. Miller
Leandre Giroux’s heart pounded in his chest as he stared across the swinging rope bridge that would lead him to his death. Bellerose Island was perpetually, magically, shrouded in fog, hiding the dangers that lurked on the island. The sun, bright and hot as it beat down upon him, did nothing to dispel the fog, and Leandre swallowed against the urge to throw up.
“You’ll regret this,” he said.
Morell Fournier laughed, an unpleasant sound that made Leandre wish his magic were unrestrained. He’d flatten Morell in a heartbeat, but Morell knew that and had accounted for it with the magic-suppressing shackles he’d snapped in place around Leandre’s wrists.
He looked down at Leandre scornfully from his horse, the expression marred by the way his left eye was swelling shut and the swollen, squashed look of his nose. Leandre couldn’t take any satisfaction from the injuries he’d inflicted on Morell, given he was the one in shackles, about to be consigned to his death.
If only he’d listened to his sister and taken more precautions, he’d still be in Montsaon, grumbling at her over afternoon tea. Now he’d likely never see Arlette again, and she’d likely never know what had happened to him. No doubt she’d figure out Morell was behind his disappearance, but with no proof and no idea where to start looking…
“Pray tell, my dear count, how I will regret this?” Morell asked, his words only slightly garbled. “You’ll be gone, there’s nothing to link me to your disappearance, and no one will be there to stand against me in the council vote. How tragic, that you disappear too close to the election for your pathetic coalition to come up with another candidate to run against me.”
“I’ll find a way to make you regret it,” Leandre said. It was an empty threat and they both knew it. No one ever came back from Bellerose Island.
“Give my regards to the dragon,” Morell said. He smiled, but it appeared more like a grimace given the battered state of his face. He jerked his chin imperiously at the two goons bracketing Leandre.
Leandre struggled against their grip as they dragged him closer to the rope bridge. They were none too gentle with him, awakening all the aching bruises that Morell had gifted him with in retribution for attempting to smash his face in.
“Cross the bridge, my lord, or I’ll see to it your sister joins you,” Morell said loudly.
“You touch a single hair on her head and you’ll face more than my wrath,” Leandre said, jerking free of the goon on his left. Arlette was protected by stronger than him, thankfully, given her connection to the crown. Morell could make all the threats he wanted against Arlette, but she was smarter and far more careful than Leandre. He couldn’t touch her, and that was the one saving grace about this whole damn thing.
Unfortunately, Leandre’s best chance for freedom was to cross the bridge and wait for Morell and his goons to leave. It wasn’t a good plan, given he had no idea what lurked on the island and they were ten miles from Montsaon, but it was better than waiting for Morell to get impatient and decide that throwing him off the cliff would work as well as exiling him to Bellerose.
Squaring his shoulders, Leandre cast the goon to his right an icy look. The man let go of Leandre’s arm as though he’d been burned, stepping back hastily. Leandre stepped forward, staring down the rotting, swaying bridge. It was missing several planks and a handful more dangled from the ropes that made up the bridge’s structure. The left guide rope had rotted away, leaving only the right, and Leandre wasn’t at all certain he’d make it across the bridge.
Taking a deep breath, he braced himself and stepped onto the first plank. It didn’t immediately give out beneath his feet, but the whole bridge swayed uncertainly in the breeze. Sea water crashed against the cliff face some eighty feet below, the foaming water swirling over the sharp, jagged rocks that stabbed upward. Leandre grabbed onto the guide rope with his shackled hands, gripping tightly as he edged out further.
Bellerose wasn’t a natural island; it had been carved away from the cliff face by the Great Black Dragon that had made the island its home some forty years back. The bridge likely dated back that far as well, which didn’t give Leandre much confidence in its strength. The dragon had been killed a decade ago by a band of treasure-seeking idiots who had promptly become the islands’ first victims. Countless others had disappeared into the island’s depths since, seeking the dragon’s treasure, but none had ever returned.