Fairy tales are often the first stories we hear as children. Goldilocks, The Frog Prince, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty. As oral tradition, fairy tales predate the written word and were often moralistic stories – for instance, The Frog Prince is about not judging on appearances.
When Champagne Books put out a submission call for dark heroes, I was put in mind of out of my favourite fairy tales – Beauty and the Beast. I love the enemy-to-lovers trope, but I wanted to put a different spin on the classic story. So I set it in space.
Malia, my Belle character, lives on a world that used to be part of a federation of planets but, being small and rather insignificant, it’s fallen off the grid. The only connection is the abandoned landing station. For Malia, who loves technology but is denied an education, the station’s “ancient” devices is a treasure trove. She teaches herself to repair them, but in doing so, activates a locator beacon that brings the federation’s commander back.
The Beast, Bayne, is known as “the Overlord”. His reputation is so fierce even Malia’s backwater planet has heard of him. Bayne demands his tithe – something Malia knows the planet cannot deliver. She offers herself in place and Bayne accepts.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has a memorable scene where the Beast gifts bookworm Belle his library. That is a turning point in their relationship, and I wanted a similar scene in my version. However, Malia cannot read or write, so instead Bayne gifts her a workplace where she can learn and practice her technological skills.
Two decks down, Bayne activated the door on a room he knew hadn’t seen much activity for a while. He stepped in, Malia’s hand still on his arm, and the lights came on. He watched her face as she looked around, smiling when her eyes widened as she realized where he’d brought her. She turned those wide eyes on him and his stomach knotted.
“Anyone that can fix something as technical as my arm with only the knowledge they taught themselves has a talent that it would be foolish to waste.”
Her forehead creased, then her lips parted. “This is for me?”
“Indeed so. I can assign a couple of my technicians to assist you as well, if you would like.”
“If I would…” She shook her head, then turned to take in the laboratory again. “Bayne, this is so… so… oh, I don’t know! I don’t have the words. All I ever got was discouragement. No one ever gave me a chance before.”
“Then they are idiots.”
She laughed, coming truly alive for the first time since he’d taken her from Terranis. She glowed, a thrilling thing to witness. Then she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly on the mouth.
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Malia dreams of a life less ordinary but when her planet is visited by the Bayne, Destroyer of Worlds, she surrenders herself to him in order to give her people time to collect the tribute that the Overlord demands.
Despite Bayne being as much machine as man and having a violent temper, he rescues her from the unwanted attentions of his second-in-command and gives Malia a glimpse at the battered heart lying beneath the steel and scars.
As they start their relationship over, Malia discovers a man very different to the reputation that precedes him and probes deeper. However, her investigation uncovers a dark truth: a truth that someone wants to remain hidden no matter what the cost.