Modern fairy-tale princess Taylor Hatfield has problems. One: He’s a guy. Two: His perfect brother Atticus is the reincarnation of Snow White. Three: Taylor has no idea which princess he is supposed to be. Four: Taylor just left his prince (a girl) at the altar. Despite his enchanted lineage, Taylor is desperate to find his Happily Ever After away from magic, witches, and stuffy traditions. Regrettably, destiny has other plans for him. Dammit.
When word reaches Taylor that Idi the Witchking has captured Atticus, Taylor is determined to save his brother. He enlists the help of rakish and insufferable Corentin Devereaux, likewise of enchanted lineage. A malicious spell sends Taylor and Corentin on a road trip through the kitschy nostalgia of roadside Americana. To save Atticus, they must solve the puzzles put forth by Idi the Witchking. As they struggle, Taylor and Corentin’s volatile partnership sparks a flash of something more. But princesses have many enemies, and Taylor must keep his wits about him because there’s nothing worse than losing your heart… or your head.
“I’m getting a shower,” Taylor said and quickly shuffled into the
bathroom. In the silence, Taylor pressed his back to the door and slid to the
floor. He clamped both hands around the crotch of his shorts and hissed through
clenched teeth, “Stop, stop, stop, please, stop.”
He had to stop thinking
about his dream. And thinking about Corentin in that way. Corentin wasn’t even
his type! And Corentin’s type was clearly
not a raging homo-sheckshual. By all of Taylor’s understanding, Corentin’s breed
of redneck was of the misogynistic racist variety. Taylor paused. Was he just
telling himself that? Taylor mentally felt around the edges of the dream. He
flinched with the dirty feeling.
Shower. He needed a shower. Now.
He picked himself up off the floor, then staggered to the tub. The
enamel had seen better days, with that lovely rusty ring around it. The shower
curtain seemed to be a repository for all assorted natures of DNA. Taylor
gingerly touched it in an effort to move it just out of the way enough to turn
the faucet. Scuffed up and mottled with rust, even the faucet made him wince.
He ripped off a sheaf of cheap toilet paper to use to turn the faucet on. First
the water belched into the tub, then after a few rude bubbling gurgles, ran in
a steady stream. It wasn’t particularly warm, however. Taylor surmised he
didn’t really need a hot shower anyway.
He disrobed, dropping his clothes in a heap on the floor. But on
second consideration, he didn’t have anything else to change into. What he had
on his back was it. Like his cum-stained cargo shorts. Yuck. He scooped his clothes off the floor and hung up his shirt on
the towel rack. He’d have to do something about his shorts, because they’d
smell and get uncomfortably crusty. He chuckled. He would never have predicted
how contentious he’d become about cleanliness until he only had one change of
clothes for the foreseeable future.
As the tub faucet ran to get some marginable level of lukewarm, he
cranked the faucet in the sink. He let the water run over the crotch of his new
shorts and scrubbed them as best he could with the questionable cracked soap
Corentin knocked once on the door. “Come on, man. Gotta pee.”
“Hold your horses,” Taylor huffed. “Let me get in the shower first.
Great Storyteller Almighty.”
Taylor hustled and wrung out his shorts. He hung them also on the
towel rack and finally hopped into the shower before poor pitiful Corentin
could have an accident on the floor. Some self-reliant huntsman he was.
Couldn’t he go out back and take a piss on a tree? Of course, there would
likely need to be some nature of tree on the premises.
Taylor jerked the curtain across the tub for privacy and instantly
regretted taking a fistful of it in such haste. “Okay! It’s safe.”
“I heard princesses were prissy, but I didn’t think it applied to
male princesses,” Corentin said as he walked in.
Taylor could see the outline of his body through the haze of the
shower curtain. He pushed himself back against the far wall to gain some
distance. A small gap remained between the curtain and the shower wall, and he
carefully peeked. With a familiar clanking of a belt buckle followed by a
zipper, Taylor instead sent his gaze upward to Corentin’s face and his bare
shoulders. Corentin had done away with his shirt, and Taylor’s face heated with
the view. Corentin was lean, like a panther, his tattooed skin pulled tight
over his biceps and hard abs. He finished, flushed, and turned away to zip his
pants. Taylor pressed his fingers to his lips at the sight of the rise of Corentin’s
tight rear as he shifted to the sink and washed his hands.
He studied himself in the mirror while Taylor stared through the
Corentin swung open the door and called behind him, “Don’t use all
the hot water.”
“O-oh-okay,” Taylor croaked, his face hot from gawking.
The door shut with a click, and Taylor sighed with the relief. He looked down at himself in
disappointment. Taylor was filthy from dirt, sweat, and whatever else was
lurking in Corentin’s disgusting truck. He turned, reaching for the cracked
soap bar. The blacked grooves in the soap made him reconsider. He reached for
the mini Johnson & Johnson shampoo bottle and uncapped it. After a careful
sniff, he tried to make sure it wasn’t rancid and questioned if it was possible
for shampoo to go rancid. Figuring he would chance it, he scrubbed himself down
with the terrible No More Tears formula.
He breathed one more time, trying to cope with the lukewarm water,
and then decided it was time to face the reality of a nasty motel room with a
man he didn’t trust who made him blush. He shut off the water and carefully
maneuvered out of the shower without touching the petri dish that served as a
Taylor considered his clothes. His shirt could use airing out, and
his shorts were a definite no. His only option was a towel around the waist. He
didn’t even like that option in high
school, let alone in the middle of nowhere with the current company. Ringo
was there, though. That made it better. Ringo would save him.
Covering himself, Taylor took a breath. On a mental count of three,
he turned the doorknob.
And the chill of the overworked window unit hit him square in the
“Fuck,” Taylor gasped and
scuttled to the bed. He immediately wrapped himself in the threadbare blanket,
which didn’t help at all. He had a string of curses on his tongue when he
finally glanced up and saw Corentin.
More specifically, saw Corentin’s tattooed torso.
Corentin, on the other hand, busied himself with making notes in
his monstrosity of a book. His brow would furrow every time he underlined
something with a determined gesture across the page. He seemed not to notice
Taylor’s open staring at the intricate black ink of an oak tree drawn in the
style of Gustave Doré. The trunk of the tree was a full sleeve with the roots
growing from Corentin’s left wrist, and at his shoulder, the branches twisted
in a windblown manner across his collarbone, shoulder blade, and a few branches
even curled at the base of his neck.
Taylor swallowed. At least it explained why Corentin was so covered
up for June weather. But something was strange about the tattoo. There were
seven boughs, but only one had leaves.
Corentin kept making notes and didn’t look up. His brow furrowed
into an even angrier contortion, and he wrote faster. When he apparently ran
out of space, he flipped his book to sit horizontally and wrote in tiny print
in the margins. He hesitated, tapping his pen on the paper.
Taylor pulled the blanket higher on his shoulders. The steam from
his body captured under the blanket helped in making the chill of the room
Corentin scribbled again in his book. He frowned and scribbled in a
repeated gesture. He shook his pen with a flick of the wrist and tried again.
He grunted and threw the pen. “Fuck,” he said and went fishing in his messenger
bag. He feverishly reached around, looked in, and then reached around again. He
puffed a sigh and upturned the bag onto the carpet.
A palm sized bottle of liquid bounced across the floor and Corentin
scrambled to snatch it midtumble. He glanced at Taylor and offered a smile.
“Hand sanitizer. Can’t go anywhere without it.” He quickly shoved the bottle
into a side pocket of his bag.
Taylor said nothing, merely watching the bizarre display as
Corentin poked through the crumpled receipts, hair ties, old cracker wrappers,
and various unidentifiable crumbs and wadded-up trash. He also flipped through a
collection of condoms in shiny magenta wrappers and printed with hearts and
lips. Taylor tightened his grip on the comforter and his face heated. Well, at
least they were cherry flavored or something?
Corentin shook the bag again, and Taylor remained silent.
As a roll of duct tape tumbled out.
And then zip ties.
Taylor’s eyes snapped wide. Corentin had fucking huntsman death
tools on him at all times. He shivered and scooted back on the bed. He judged
the distance from the bed to the door in case he needed to run at a moment’s
notice. Obviously a naked guy running down the interstate would get some
attention. But he hadn’t seen any cars on the interstate since they ended up
here. He nibbled at his lip. Maybe if he stole Corentin’s truck? That seemed
like a good idea.
“Ah!” Corentin said, clearly relieved he apparently found a pen,
and ignored the zip ties and duct tape. He resumed his furious scribbling.