A bookish beauty. A beastly prince hiding away from the world…
Disguised as a man, Catherine sets out to do the one thing that no one else has: to find Prince Edward. She planned on the quest being difficult. She knew that convincing him to return home would be near impossible but doesn’t expect the fire of passion that quickly flares up between them, especially since she’s hiding a dark secret of her own.
As they try to move on from the past, an old enemy stalks them. A woman set on revenge who will stop at nothing—even if it means hurting anyone who happens to get in the way—to destroy the prince.
Catherine and the Beast Prince was previously published as The Beast Prince by Amber Jantine.
This small village had only one bookstore, but that was where Prince Edward’s trail led. Perhaps in his isolation he needed amusement of some sort, without contacting people if he could help it.
It was a very long shot that the bookseller would know anything or would reveal anything. But right now, it was the only lead that Catherine possessed.
She stepped into the shop and paused, inhaling deeply.
Oh, how she loved the smell of books, both old and new. There was nothing else like it in the world. It transported her back to happier days, when she spent most of her time in her stepfather’s library. Ella’s father had been a gentleman scholar, renowned enough that he often advised the king. His library had been a hall of wonders to Catherine when she first discovered it, and the late Lord Anthony always encouraged her in her education even though her mother had strongly disapproved of it all.
Catherine suppressed a shudder. That wasn’t the worst that Mother had done, either. To both Lord Anthony and Catherine.
“Looking for something in particular?”
“I am not certain.” She tried to deepen in her voice, but of course it cracked. In part because she was speaking a mostly unfamiliar language. “But thank you.”
She knew from experience that it was best not to ask the shopkeeper questions right away. They would be much more receptive to conversation if they thought she was a genuine customer.
The selection was small, but had been put together by someone with exceptional taste. She recognized the foreign language versions of several scholarly works her stepfather had owned and could not resist running her fingers down each leather-bound spine.
She was tempted to purchase the volumes, but would have no place to store them during her travels. Maybe if she was lucky, she could come back again later, once she finished her quest.
As she continued browsing along the shelves, the shop door opened.
A man entered. He looked out of place. His clothes were shabby, even torn in places, and his hands were calloused with dirt under his fingernails.
He didn’t look at all like the sort who would frequent a bookstore. It appeared unlikely that he could even read. It was not common for manual laborers to be educated, especially in smaller villages like this one.
Yet the shopkeeper greeted him with a warm smile. “Back again?”
“I have another list.”
The bookstore owner looked it over, then gathered together several volumes, including a few of the ones that Catherine admired earlier. The scruffy man handed him a bag. A small leather pouch tied with a ribbon. There was nothing particularly fine about the ribbon, but it was a distinctive shade of cobalt blue and trimmed with something that looked like almost gold.
The family colors of the royal house of Glaecor.
She returned the volume that she had been thumbing through to the shelf and watched as they completed the transaction. Then she headed out, following the man at a discreet distance.
He never once looked back, nor seemed to care whether someone followed him. He was heading toward the mountains outside of the village. Which was strange. Everyone Catherine had spoken to swore that no one lived up there.
That no one would even consider living there.
According to local legend, the rocky terrain was cursed, as was the dark forest that surrounded it.
Which made it a perfect place for someone to hide. Halfway up the side of one of the tallest of the peaks, stood what might have once been a grand estate. Gated off with a solid wood fence that appeared recently installed, although the place was supposed to be abandoned and most likely forgotten.
The only visible building was an old tower. Run down and decrepit, it almost appeared to be falling off the edge of a cliff.
She followed the strange man all the way to the building, then hid and watched as he headed inside. He soon emerged with another leather pouch, similar to the one he had given the book seller.
This had to be where Prince Edward was hiding. She was sure of it.
Catherine crept forward, circling around the structure to get a better idea of what she was dealing with. There was only one entrance on each side and there appeared to be no servants on the grounds.
The front door was ajar. Perhaps the messenger had not closed it properly.
She heard no movement, nor detected any other signs of life.
Not surprising. If this was truly the hiding place of Prince Edward, he would not linger near the door. He would most likely be holed up somewhere deeper within the tower.
For a moment, she considered calling out to him, then decided against it. Though her suspicions were strong, she couldn’t be certain that she was right.
The smell inside the structure was not completely foul, but the place had definitely not been aired out in some time. There were no lamps or candles lit, making it difficult to see anything beyond a few feet within the entrance.
Catherine heard a sound. Saw a movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned to face it, and something slammed into her. Shoved her up against the wall. Not roughly but not exactly gently, either. “What are you doing in my house?”