Sleeping Beauty (Not Quite the Fairy Tale Book 7)

Sleeping Beauty (Not Quite the Fairy Tale Book 7)

May Sage

Chapter 1

The King of Old

The King sighed out loud, lying back on his plush throne. They’d won the war, this time – at twenty-nine years of age, he’d lived through seven conflicts, four where they’d been victorious, three that Alenia had won. Their borders had been redefined each time, cutting back and then regaining useless, barren pieces of land.

What was the bloody point?

“I’ll not waste my years on a fruitless endeavor like my forefathers, darn it!” he cursed, and the woman at his side laughed softly.

“I’m afraid you won’t have much choice on the matter, Rupert,” she replied, putting another dark grape between her delicious lips. “Unless you wish to relinquish your kingdom.”

Some days, he wished he could; then he remembered he was King of Ferren, the most powerful kingdom of Europa – this year, in any case. It was entirely possible that Alenia might regain the title by Winter Feast.

“Or, I guess you could try to form an alliance,” she suggested offhandedly.

He looked at her as though she had grown another set of horns, although Maleficent only had the two usual ones, proudly sprouting out of her pretty head.

Rupert knew just how lucky he was to have her for a friend. Like most fays, she didn’t directly intervene in human matters, but her counsel was invaluable. Normally. Right now, she spoke complete, utter gibberish.

“An alliance with Alenia. Have you been sniffing pixy dust again?”

The last time she’d come up with something half as unlikely, she’d been high as a kite.

“Doesn’t hurt to ask,” she replied with a shrug. “Their Queen might feel the same way about your incessant conflicts.”

Although the very prospect seemed completely impossible, he asked, and it turned out that Maleficent was right. The Queen of Alenia did want peace. So much that she proposed to give him her youngest daughter as a proof and guarantee.

Rupert didn’t question it, betrothals of that sort happened everywhere to straighten out kingdoms. He should have looked into it and sought to understand why the Queen of Alenia was in such a hurry to dispose of her own flesh and blood; instead of researching his intended, he readily accepted the deal.

And that was the beginning of the end.

One hundred and five years later.

There wasn’t much to know about King Rupert – he had been simple, non-descript in the textbooks. Less bloodthirsty than his predecessors, although he’d ended up winning the two wars he’d fought in record time. Everything led one to believe that he had been a great king; there were dozens of letters of thanks from small, faraway farms and impoverished territories expressing gratitude for his visit and the measures he took to ensure his subjects thrived.

He’d married an Alenian princess at thirty. The correspondence preceding the event had made it clear that the union had been a political arrangement, but there was no reason to think that the couple had been anything but blissfully happy. The aged, sepia antique photograph of the King and Queen on their wedding day attested that the golden couple matched perfectly. They were both equally stunning, equally regal and proper.

Three years later, King Rupert and Queen Marina had the most beautiful little girl, with big golden curls like her mother’s.

A few years after that, though, tragedy struck their little cloud of happiness. There weren’t many texts explaining what had occurred but historians had concluded that a plague had wiped out most of Ferren.

This is my fault, the King had written in his diary, I should never have allowed it to reach this point. Now, I think of nothing but protecting the child from this curse. None of this is her doing and she is my daughter. I have to try.

What he’d tried had been risky – very much so. A hundred years ago, the carbonite freezing process had been rudimentary at best; it was a miracle he, his wife, and their daughter had survived it.

Aurora Stephenson forced herself to look away from the painfully beautiful face standing a head taller than she. Even in his frozen state, immobile and mostly blue, he was striking – more so than anyone she’d ever met, although she had been engaged to two of the sexiest Kings in Europa.

She spent more time than she cared to admit looking at him, studying his features, wondering what his voice sounded like. It was always worse when she went away for a few days: his incomparable beauty struck her afresh at each return.

The fact that no living man had ever fascinated her as much as the King she studied was most probably the reason why neither one of her engagements had worked out, in all honesty.

At first, she’d blamed Aiden, Prince of Ennom, and then Dane, King of Alenia, but two years had passed since he’d broken their engagement and she’d looked in the mirror and admitted the truth.

She was the problem, or part of it, at least. She was cold, uninterested, focused on her work. Nothing animated her half as much as the discovery of one of King Rupert’s correspondences or a discussion about the probable cause of his demise. It was worse than fascination; her interest bordered on obsession. What man wanted that in a wife?

Aurora shook her head, forced her gaze away from the capsule covering her King’s shell, and went back to work.

She was reporting the details of yet another simulation. It had grown redundant at first; now it was plain old boring.

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