Curse of the Beast by Ashley Lavering
A dark shadow stalks the night, watching her—waiting to claim what is his.
Seventeen-year-old Tayla Jonas longs for a simple life, but after a traumatizing family loss, she is forced to be both mother and sister to her cousins while caring for her mentally unstable aunt. Moving to her grandma’s quiet town of Cody, Wyoming, Tayla finds some normalcy with her quirky green activist friend, Chel, who spends no time converting her to vegetarianism.
A few weeks into her new school, Tayla catches the eye of Kyle Harrington—the high school quarterback and resident millionaire—who can seduce any girl with his charismatic charm, including Tayla. But Kyle is anything but what he seems.
Walking through City Park, Tayla is unaware that an ancient curse has her in its crosshairs. The silver moonlight illuminates the path to her van, sprinkling shadows like evil twinkling eyes. Tayla’s skin prickles, and she turns. Something—or someone—is watching her.
A powerful werewolf steps from the shadows. An iridescent blue chord shoots from him and slams into her stomach, dissolving instantly. Pain wracks her body, and she tries to scramble to safety, but his silver eyes freeze her in place as the curse binds them together. The chord settles deep inside her body, coiling with dread around her heart.
Dismayed by the prospect of a werewolf for a shadow, Tayla fears for the safety of her friends and family. How will she keep the werewolf’s insatiable hunger in check? Her plans for a vegetarian lifestyle quickly dwindle away, and Tayla wrestles to fit her frazzled life back together—piece by piece. But what she didn’t expect was her attraction to the werewolf or the power of the full moon.
Will Tayla be strong enough to survive the Curse of the Beast? Or will it consume her like so many before? Find out in the first installment of this unique retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
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Where to find Ashley:
Creative Thoughts (blog): www.ashleylavering.blogspot.com
Curse of the Beast Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Curse-of-the-Beast/162476580509579
(All rights reserved, and please understand that it might change a little from now to publication. Enjoy!)
The night air was quiet, soothing my agitated nerves. The brittle grass crunched beneath my feet, and the wind carried a refreshing snow smell, like misty ice. The waxing gibbous moon shone bight and full as I gazed up at the starry sky. It looked unhappy, like the face shining in its pale depths was frowning. It had always looked that way to me—just another difference separating me from my peers. How could anything that sad be romantic? I’d take a sunset over the full moon any day.
I passed a clump of trees and my skin crawled—something was out there. I squinted into the shadows, my hands clammy with fear. Was someone watching me? Had Kyle followed me? I was only half way through the park, but if I sprinted—
A twig snapped, and I whipped around, fists raised—a futile attempt at self defense. My heart thrummed as my eyes locked on a large, dark form leaning against a pine tree, looking more like the tree trunk than a person. I stared into the stranger’s silver-streaked eyes that seemed to glow from his hooded face.
“K-kyle?” I lowered my hands a fraction.
Who else was bent on torturing me? Natalie came to mind, but the person before me was tall and had a definite football player’s build. That narrowed it down to Kyle—or could it be Todd? The glare he’d thrown me in the theater had been especially icy. Maybe this was Todd finally getting me back for the whole Kyle punching incident. The shadows and trench coat could add a hundred pounds of muscle to his beanpole frame. But what was up with the contacts? I shivered. If it was Todd, he was totally freaking me out with this practical joke. This was a bit much, even if I deserved it.
“Now, you’ve stooped to being a creepy stalker?” My words carried my disgust.
But he didn’t move, not even to blink. There was no smirk or a, “Gotcha!” The silence continued, and my stomach knotted nervously into a jumbled ball. Maybe it wasn’t Todd? A sinking feeling enveloped me, like a cold, damp cloak. I squeezed my torso, desperate to still the tremors. This was stupid. Why not break the act and start laughing now?
You got me. I fell for it.
And they probably had enough footage to humiliate me for the rest of my life. So why keep the facade going?
Anger sizzled through my veins.
This stupid boyish prank is over.
“You’re such a jerk! I hope that wolf sighted in town mistakes you for dinner.” I fisted my hands, refusing to spill the tears threatening to fall. With my luck, if the sighted wolf was in the park, it would probably eat me first. Though my words were daring, I felt anything but brave—I was terrified. Kyle was so much stronger than me, and the park was empty. What if this time he had finally cracked? Determined to take me against my will?
I pivoted, preparing to bolt to the van, when a bolt of blue lightning shot from the shadowed man like a harpoon. My breath caught, and I shielded my face. It hit my stomach. I grunted from the impact, fighting to remain upright from the sucker punch.
Shocked, I looked down and gasped in horror. An iridescent turquoise cord pulsed with light as if it was a breathing organism. My stomach twisted, and I lifted my shirt with shaky hands. The tube-like cord imbedded itself in my bellybutton, blue veins climbing quickly through my bloodstream. I screamed and tried yanking it out like a giant sliver, but my hand raked through it, swirling the pulsing cord into a misty fog that faded away into the night.
I blinked, my breath ragged as my hands rubbed my abdomen’s smooth skin, unable to shake the memory of the bluish tentacles racing through my body. It was gone. Had I imagined it? Maybe he’d drugged me with some tipped dart I hadn’t felt prick my skin. I struggled to flee, but my feet refused. Even the scream building in my throat lodged midway. The lone shadow finally detached itself from the clump of trees and held out his hand, beckoning me to him.
“Come.” His voice was like deep rumbling thunder, sending a zing of fear through me. I stepped forward and grimaced at the loss of control over my limbs.
Clenching my hands, teeth, anything that was still left in my power, I resisted his pull, but my feet kept moving. Step after step my panic ebbed, replaced with an unexplained eagerness to do his bidding. I screamed inside my head, trying to break free of the sluggish fog that swam through my body. He must have drugged me. It was the only explanation. But then how was I so mentally conscious with no control over my own body? I quickly felt my grasp on reality fading, but I had to hold on.
I closed the gap between us and took his hairy hand. It closed around mine like a steel handcuff, and I shuddered. I was going to die.
His eyes solidified into a stunning iridescent blue—just like the chord—that penetrated deep inside me, as if searching my soul. The image of a magnificently powerful wolf flashed inside my mind. Its furry coat was streaked tan and black, dusted lightly with the same silver of the stranger’s eyes. My body was suddenly so tired, my eyelids fluttered as if the wolf was lulling me to sleep. Darkness clouded my mind, sucking me into an ethereal abyss.
Is this what death feels like?
Before my eyes shut, my life played in rewind: my family lounging under the stars and finding constellations, my cousins’ laughter when they won a board game, Grandpa brushing aside foliage to show me a wild orchid. Then, the dark swirls of syrupy anguish drowned out the happy moments. My soul twisted as images of Uncle Stan’s burned face flashed through my mind.
Pain knifed through the fog and the images faded along with the wolf. I stumbled backwards, tripping over my feet before scrambling to run, now that my feet were my own again. Barely hearing the curse behind me, I ran for the closest thing of safety—my van. Footfalls pounded behind me until they abruptly fell silent.
Suddenly, deep, throbbing pain wracked my skull. With each step, my brain felt ground into hamburger, robbing me of all coherent thought. A small part of my brain screamed run faster! But I felt sluggish again, and my body ached to turn around. Only my determination to reach the safety of my van kept my feet moving forward. I stepped again, and a sharp pain ripped through my abdomen. It stole my breath, and I doubled over in agony.
A bass voice vibrated behind me—a voice of a stranger. “The curse has claimed you.”
Curse? What in the world is he talking about?
I shook my head. Nothing made any sense: nothing but the urgency to run.
He continued, voice filled with power. “Tayla, you must stay with—”
“How did you know my—” My words overrode his before trailing off as I lost focus on my van, and the impulse to turn around won.
My mouth dropped open, and I shivered, finally able to see him in the moonlight as he stalked toward me. Was it even human? It walked upright, wearing an open hooded trench coat, thick black khaki pants, and a matching classy polo with a three button front closure at the neck. But his masculine face was so animal-like. Thick whiskers traveled from his neck to forehead, thinning around his eyes and nose. Only his lips and eyelids were naked, pale skin. His nose was flat and wide at the base with canine-looking nostrils. His human lips parted, revealing a row of sharp white teeth that gleamed in the silver moonlight.
A scream erupted from my mouth as terror flooded my veins. I sprinted as fast as my legs would carry me—focused on one thing, reaching my van. My hand reached for the passenger side handle. Before my fingers could yank the door open, the same gut-wrenching pain from before ripped through me like a bullet. I was jerked back by an invisible force, smacking the sidewalk. The pain was so intense that white streaks flashed through my vision. I felt my stomach, expecting to see blood from a bullet wound, but my hand was dry. What was happening to me?
Any movement took tremendous effort. I struggled to roll over on my stomach and barely managed it. With my hands under my body, I pushed, but nothing happen. It was like all my strength was yanked away by that—beast. The need to run—to escape—was overwhelming, but my muscles refused. I’d never been so exhausted. My blood swished loudly behind my ears, my breathing shallow and labored.
Seconds felt like hours. My heart sped at the sound of soft footsteps approaching. With each padded thud of his feet, the pain racking my body lessened fractionally, and I summoned enough strength to turn my head and watch the creature’s slow and steady approach. His canine teeth flashed in the dark.Was this how my life would end: murdered by a beast?